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December 25 2008


Three Ways To Use Delicious

Delicious is a social bookmarking site that allows you to store your Internet bookmarks on the web.  However, it is much more.  Let me share a few ways to use this great tool.

First, Delicious allows you to keep all of your bookmarks in one place.  I have three computers that I use regularly.  If I simply bookmarked information on the computer I was using at the time, I would never know where my bookmarks are (this happened often).  Now I bookmark everything through Delicious, and all of my bookmarks are always available.

Second, Delicious uses tags to make information easy to find.  Previously, I would have to spend a day every month organizing my bookmarks into folders, and then I would still not be able to find what I wanted.  Delicious uses tags (keywords) to help you find what you want in a hurry.  Just click one of the tags, and every bookmark that has that keyword is display.  Much faster and no time is wasted trying to organize (this is very helpful for right brained personalities).

Last, Delicious has a networking function.  I just found out about this yesterday.  I joined Twitter, and the people I am following always share great links, but what about the links they found last month or last year?  By networking to their Delicious bookmarks, I can look through their tags and find anything that I want very quickly.  It is a fantastic way to share great links without hours of Internet searches.
America's future will be determined by the home and the school. The child becomes largely what he is taught; hence we must watch what we teach, and how we live.
— Jane Addams

December 24 2008


Three Great Ways To Use Digg.com

I often forget to look at my digg.com page, but every time I remember it, I am always thrilled with what I find.  How can you use Digg.com?

First, I use it to find articles that interest me.  I don't really have time to sit and read a newspaper daily, so I let Digg bring me exactly the types of stories that I like.  This keep me informed about what is happening in technology and world politics.  I can scroll through the days news in a couple of minutes and use Simply Box to tag any articles that look really interesting.

Second, having students use Digg.com and send you their search results via Twitter or Facebook is a great idea.  History classes are notorious for having students find current event stories.  Couldn't we turn that project into a Web2.0 experiment in which students use Digg and send you the best of what they find.  Easier for you to track and grade.

Third, this is a great way to share information on Twitter.  I just joined Twitter, and I often feel like I don't contribute enough to my followers.  By using Digg, I can find interesting articles and quickly post the link online.  I am contributing to Twitter, and feel more connected to my followers. 

How To Not Be Overwhelmed By New Technology

Last week, I joined Twitter, and it is the greatest personal learning tool I have ever found.  However, I now have 130+ people I am following, and it seems like I can never keep up with all of the links and amazing articles people are sharing.  How can I not keep up?  I might miss something amazing.

Yet, I have reminded myself that before last week, I did not have this tool, and life continued.  Every time I go on Twitter, I usually find one or two valuable nuggets of information.  I am learning to be happy with what I find, and to find a way to really incorporate one or two ideas each week into my teaching.  The blog has really helped in that respect.  I am trying to add content daily that makes me reflect on how to really utilize these links and ideas.  Having them is not enough.  Utilizing them, learning from them as you and your students play and learn, and then sharing them with other teachers truly makes them valuable.  Finding, playing and sharing these are the three key words I am taking into the new year.  Less Starbucks coffee wouldn't hurt my nerves either.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
— William Shakespeare

December 23 2008


Three Ways To Use Slideshare.net

I love slideshare.net!  It has saved my life when I need a presentation on a topic and needed something fast (like in the morning before classes began).  Here are three ways to use Slideshare in your teaching.

First, you can find a pre-made PowerPoint on the subject you are teaching.  I would not recommend using it as you find it on Slideshare.  There are often misspellings, factual errors, and irrelevant information.  With a little proofreading and elimination of irrelevant information, you can find a ready made PowerPoint that can be presented in class.  Why do you need to reinvent the wheel when it is already created?

Second, this is a great point to begin research on a topic you are thinking about included in your classes for the future.  If you want to include a new novel for your English class, first check to see if there is a PowerPoint on it.  Another teacher may have an interesting spin on a plot point or character that you had not previously thought about. 

Third, challenge students to improve upon the PowerPoints that they find on slideshare.  Since anyone can post to Slideshare, there are many bad PointPoints as well.  Have you students become critics of what they find and then challenge them to make a better PowerPoint on the topic.

Note:  You can also use Google to find PowerPoint presentations.  Here is a sample search  <<"French Revolution" +filetype:PPT>>.  This should return all of the PowerPoint presentations on the French Revolution that are available on the Internet.  The same rules apply: some will be good and others horrible.  Challenge yourself and your students to pan the gold that is available on Slideshare and the Internet.

Find PointPoint presentations on virutally any topic

PowerPoint presentations from around the world that can be viewed and/or downloaded for free.
Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy.
— Margaret Thatcher

December 22 2008


Three Ways To Use xtimeline.com

xtimeline.com is a great program for English and History teachers, but it can also be used for all classes when teaching students about the evolution of a concept.  Here are a couple of ways to use it.

First, for students who excel and enjoy history.  If you have a student, who completes classwork in about 2 seconds, have her research existing timelines for you.  There are thousands of pre-made timelines that exist, so there may be very useful timelines that already meet your needs.  Let a student do the fishing for you, so that you can simply review what she has found.

Second, they are great for group projects.  Students can work collaboratively on the timelines.  When connecting literature and history, this would be an excellent group project.  Have the students document the historical influences on the author.  The students can use wikipedia and other sources to gather their information and then combine those resources in the creation of a timeline.

Third, you can use it for your own personal knowledge.  For example, I wanted to teach my kids about Chanukkah, but most of the books on the subject are not that great.  At the bottom of xtimeline, there are featured timelines that present popular or currently relevant information.  The one for today was Chanukkah, and it does a great job of showing the history of Chanukkah.  Excellent resource that I will be sharing with my kids when we light the candles tonight.

7 Ways Teachers Can Use Technology

Great article about practical ways that teachers can use technology to bring out the best in their students.
Our greatest glory lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.
— Confucius

December 21 2008


4 Resources Model for 21st Century Learning

Angela Maiers provides lots of food for thought with this blog post.  How do we teach students to have the critical skills to effectively use Web2.0 tools?  Angela gives some initial answers.

Ways To Use Simply Box

I love this website for organizing important links.  I am currently using it in a variety of ways.

First, I use it to organize my own research.  I am researching links and ideas to share at my school during professional development.  It allows me to create a visual history of my searches and to organize my thoughts in a variety of ways.  I can move things back and forth between boxes as my emphasis for my blog changes.

Second, I can collaborate with other teachers easily.  I can invite other teachers to view what is in my box or I can use the "Box and Send" function to share information with other teachers immediately. 

Third, I love the comment feature.  I can give a short annotation to each website that I find.  When I am searching, I can quickly annotate how I want to use the site.  Then I when I have reflection time, like over holiday break or during the summer, I can return and remember what idea that site triggered for me.

I will keep searching for innovative ways to use simply box, and when I find them.  I will update the blog.

Visual social bookmarking site

A great way to keep track of information on the web.  I am using it to keep track of sites to add to my blog and things I find through Twitter.
The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.
— Niels Bohr

December 20 2008


What Follows NCLB?

While I have some "free" time over break, I wanted to reflect on some articles I have been collecting with Simply Box (a great website for organizing information found on the web).  On such article is Educator's Don't Want Law Left Behind by Liz Brown   http://tinyurl.com/6c55sv.  The focus of the article is what will the Obama administration do with NCLB.  We cannot eliminate testing because it does demonstrate serious problems with many of our schools.  However, great schools are hurt by the law because they are forced to weaken their standards to make the numbers look pretty for their school districts.

What is needed is a concept that has been talked about by David Brewer of the Los Angeles Unified School District, but never fully implemented.  That concept is earned autonomy.  If schools receive a certain score on standardized tests, they should be freed from the bonds of periodic assessments and district imposed curriculum. 

Does that end the accountability for these schools?  It does not need to.  Those schools could become lab schools where teachers and administrators from failing schools can visit to understand what works.  The time and money wasted with periodic assessments at great schools could be used to pay successful teachers to create learning communities where they can share ideas with others around the country and propel their schools to even greater heights.  Why in the name of better teaching do we dumb down the curriculum? 

Teachers unions and technology advocacy groups need to push legislators and school boards to give power to schools that are successful.  School boards and standardized curriculum are not going to help failing schools.  Teachers and administrators at successful schools are the key to helping failing schools make a turn around.

Brainstorming Ways To Use YouTube In Schools

Today, I want to brainstorm about ways to use YouTube in the classroom. 

First, I use them as anticipatory sets (from Madeline Hunter) to foster class discussion.  A short video clip can really help start a class discussion.  The obvious problem is how to get around my school's censoring software.  I search for the videos at home and then convert them using www.zamzar.com.  If you have not used it, you must try it. 

Second, I use YouTube as a professional development tool.  I have found www.commoncraft.com to be a great resource for videos for understanding web2.0 tools.  It is a great place to start when I want to try something new. 

Third, it is a great place to for students to post their work and get an authentic audience.  I love it when people from around the world see videos my students have created.  Sometimes the criticism can be harsh, but most of the time the feedback is positive and the students love it. 

Fourth, this is an idea that I got from Kenneth's ESL blog at http://tinyurl.com/9y9ael, use YouTube as a listening exercise.  Find videos where the images and the words do not correspond or are contradictory.  Challenge the students to look beyond the images and hear the message that is really behind the video. 

Last, I love to use YouTube videos to shake up a staff development meeting.  There are so many great videos on educational technology and the transformation of our schools.  Find one with shocking information and images.  I always get great feedback after showing one of those videos.  One I just recently found is the connected classroom at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zWtJOQZO2o.  Show it at your next staff development and see what happens.
Man is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness from which he emerges and the infinity in which he is engulfed.
— Blaise Pascal
Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.
— Helen Keller

What happens to teachers once learning escapes the four walls?

I just found this amazing article, "World Without Wall: Learning Well With Others" from Edutopia http://tinyurl.com/6y645y.  The article blew me away with how dramatic our mindset shift as teachers must be to really take advantage of technology.  The articles states, "The Collaboration Age is about learning with a decidedly different group of "others," people whom we may not know and may never meet, but who share our passions and interests and are willing to invest in exploring them together."  I am doing this with my own professional development as a member of Twitter and as a subscriber of multiple blogs and podcasts.  How do I teach my students to become this type of learner.  What implications does that hold for me as there teacher.  If I encourage them to learn outside of the walls, will they return?
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