Friday, March 13, 2009

Concurrent Session #7 - Geocaching for Beginners

Presented by Kevin Merritt from Greenville County's Instructional Technology office, this is the one new thing I learned at conference that is totally new to me and I'm most excited about using! Make sure you check Kevin's website for handouts and ideas for lessons. Fun, fun, fun! A quick search of the Internet on "geocaching lessons" renders great results and a search in OnePlaceSC pulled some great articles - both for adults and kids.
You can integrate geocaching (real and virtual) into any content area. Use existing caches or create your own!


  • Hand-held GPS units last longer than car GPS units but they can be used

  • Take a pencil to sign log books

  • Containers to create your own cache (research this before you attempt - there are guidelines) - ammo boxes (from Army/Navy store), pill bottles, Rubbermaid containers

  • Take a camera!

  • Beware of GeoMuggles

  • Experienced members of the group agreed that Garmin is a good brand. Don't spend a lot of money. More expensive models have more but unnecessary functions.

  • Some phones that are GPS enabled can be used, but may require additional subscription costs.

  • There is software you can purchase that will load locations to multiple GPS units (good for classes)

  • Check descriptions for locations before you plan your visits for terrain conditions, pet restrictions, etc.

  • Check with ranger stations at parks for lists

Concurrent Session #6 - Exciting Writing with Technology Tools

Fran Mauney - Formerly a first grade teacher, now working with Title 1 schools integrating technology in the classrooms.

Check her wiki for more workshops, handouts and more. Most activities seem geared for elementary school but many ideas could be adapted for older students.

Fun Activities:

Make classroom books - use your own photographs. Print and bind to send home or maybe create e-books

Integrate Technology with Writing Menus: (Layered Curriculum)

  1. Look at your standards

  2. Decide what your students have to learn for this unit

  3. Use multiple intelligence verbs to design projects
Cross-curricular units - create graphs, writing samples, create t-searches (t-shirts with iron ons), etc. Students choose from a variety of projects in different categories to earn points for their unit. Some students are better in some areas than others. Allow them to choose the best way to express their knowledge of the subject.

Creating Wikis:

Can be used as part of Writing Menus. Students could have assignments to find websites, post writing, edit writings, upload pictures. Get started with or

Technology "Toys" to Inspire Writing:

  • Promethean Board
  • Intel Microscope
  • Kidpix, Kidspiration, Photo Fantasy,
  • Interactive Lessons
  • Laptops
  • Karaoke Machine
  • CD Player or iPod
  • Digital Cameras to record stories
  • MovieMaker
  • Document Cameras
  • Video cameras
  • (not technology, but Immersion Table)

Concurrent Session #5 - OnePlaceSC: One Username, One Password and ONE Integrated Search!

I attended the session on OnePlaceSC and I was so glad to get a refresher on some really great resources available to teachers in SC! OnePlaceSC is one stop searching for StreamlineSC for videos, images, lesson plans and more (United Streaming); ITV and ETV programming; KnowItAll; PBS Kids; Teachers' Domain; Annenberg Media; DISCUS and PBS Teachers. To search OnePlaceSC you use your same login and password from Discovery Education Streaming.

There are lots of other related links to explore:
Streamline Resources for Media Specialists - Presentation materials, handouts, how-tos, workshops and more!

Professional Development Listing - Professional development videos on a variety of subjects.

Educator+ - The resource for educational professionals (professional development videos on demand)

Instant Replay: Anytime, Anywhere Learning - Video on demand

Teacher Center - Once you login to Discovery Education Streaming, check out the "Teacher's Center" for some very cool tools including the Discovery Education Atlas, Quiz Builder, Writing Prompt Builder, Lesson Plan Library, Discovery Educator Network and more!

Student Logins for Discovery Education Streaming - see your site administrator for the special code for students to use to create logins. It's very important that each user has their own login and password.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Concurrent Session #3 - Math Maddness in the Media Center

Cathy Eoute and Amy Ray from Berea High School did a wonderful job of illustrating how media specialists and teachers can collaborate to effectively integrate technology, writing across the curriculum and 21st Century Standards into a math standards-based lesson that results in an authentic assessment that students acually enjoy!
Cathy collaborated with Amy to help teach her students to create movies illustrating concepts in math. Amy uses these movies as an introduction or review for units.

Cathy has some great ideas about really focusing on making quality video using relatively inexpesive equipment and making the best use of the equipment she does have. Cathy purchased 7 licenses for Adobe Premiere Elements and installed them strategically on computers in the media center so that they are easily accessible for small groups.
Project Timeline:
Students were required to create storyboards and write scripts before they were allowed to even touch a computer. Amy outlined the math requirements for their projects and Cathy took care of copyright education, research and instruction for filming and editing their videos.

Concurrent Session #4 - Connecting With Readers Using Web 2.0 Tools

I attended "Connecting With Readers Using Web 2.0 Tools" - Cristina Connell from Gettys Middle School had some great ideas for using some new tools to pep up blogs and webpages and I can't wait to get started - especially with Screencast-o-matic. I played around with it last night and it is super easy to use. The only drawback is that I really don't like to hear recordings of my voice but I will have to GET OVER IT. Maybe I could get some kids to do it for me??? Some ways I want to use it in the library and for my teachers:

  • How-To use the library webpage for kids (and adults!)

  • How-To use our OPAC - Destiny Quest (again, for kids and adults!)

  • How-To use NetTrekker, OverDrive, Soundzabound, DISCUS...

  • Booktalks

  • How-Tos for students using their Student Home Directories and Portal

  • Reminders for students about how to save their narration and pictures correctly when using MovieMaker

  • For teachers who can't attend my Technology Tuesday inservices - snipits of what we did that day in class (although they won't get credit for attending :( )

Now, in the classroom I am sure there tons of ways - let me know if you think of others:

  • Computer Technology classes - how to perform different opperations

  • How to use CD software that comes with textbooks

  • For ELA - how to format a Works Cited and how to find citation information from electronic sources.

I am looking forward to spending some time this weekend exploring Cristine's blogs to get even more ideas! Here are two more links she provided with great information:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


A WebQuest is "an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web." WebQuests are an underutilized treasure that can be tailored to fit most any study. WebQuests are a great way to scaffold student use of the Internet.
The "home" of WebQuests is the San Diego State page. From this page you can search existing WebQuests, get guidelines and resources for creating your own WebQuest, more information about WebQuests, a WebQuest ning, recommendations for further reading and news about WebQuests.

A WebQuest About WebQuests
Familiarize yourself with the components of a WebQuest by completing a WebQuest About WebQuests : Topic, Introduction, Task, Process, Conclusion.

Don't reinvent the wheel!
Find a WebQuest that's almost what you want? Contact the original creators and ask for permission to alter what they've done. Chances are they will be happy to share. I did this earlier this year and not only did I receive permission but they sent me an entire unit to use with our teachers. Here is the link to the re-worked WebQuest on Children of the Holocaust using Surviving Hitler . I created the WebQuest with Google Pages (now Google Sites). You can create a subsite using your GCS teacher website and that will work just as well.

Examples of WebQuests
Best -
All About WebQuests -

Tools to Create Your Own WebQuest
teAchnology -
Filamentality -
TeacherWeb ($$$) -

More About WebQuests
Concept to Classroom -
WebQuest 101-
All About WebQuests -
Creating a WebQuest: It's Easier Than You Think! -
Tom March -

Monday, January 12, 2009

iPods in Math Class

A math teacher approached us about using iPods in her classroom. We figured out a different way to go about the task she had in mind without using iPods, but I haven't been able to stop thinking of ways to incorporate iPods or other technologies in the math curriculum. I am sure there are lots of creative math teachers out there already successfully doing this. Here are some of the ideas I was able to find:
  • Data Modeling with Nike + iPod in Mathematics - This would require the Nike + iPod Sport Kit which raises the budget red flag for me already but why can't it be a joint venture between the athletics department and the math department?
  • Math Tutor - Video tutorials that can be either watched on your computer or dumped into iTunes to download on iPods. We discussed creating our own video tutorials and had some ideas:

Capturing problem solving via the Promethean Board - I understand that it is possible to capture work on the Promethean Board, but is it possible to transfer that recording to a computer where the file can be uploaded to iTunes or downloaded to a generic MP3 player?

We also talked about video taping students completing problems using our Flip cameras.

Harriet Kicker had the idea to use doodle function in VoiceThread to complete an equation.

I have not yet explored iTunes for downloads or YouTube, TeacherTube, etc. for videos but aside from the expense how much time does it take to download this stuff to a class set of iPods and how do teachers/schools deal with damaged/stolen materials?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Blogging in the Classroom

I was so happy to have 15 enthusiastic educators join me on Tuesday, October 28, 2008 for a quick workshop on blogging in the classroom. The main ideas we covered were:

  • What is a blog?

  • How to find blogs of interest

  • How to subscribe to blogs with a feed aggregator

  • How to use blogs in the classroom

  • Planning for your classroom blog

  • The basics of getting a blog started

What is a blog?

The word "blog" is short for web-log. A blog is an online journal of sorts. You can find blogs written on political opinion, blogs as an electronic bulletin board to keep a particular audience informed, blogs that chronicle an exciting life event such as a new baby, wedding plans or an illness...if you can think of a topic I'll bet there is a blog out there to cover it.

Finding blogs of interest

One of the best ways to prepare for creating your own blog is to acquaint yourself with what's already out there. Not only will this practice help you define your blog, it will also provide professional insight related to your field. There are many tools available to search for blogs. One way we searched for blogs during the workshop was using Google's blog search. Other sites out there: Technorati, Bloglines search, Clusty blog search, Blogpulse.

How to subscribe to blogs

So, you find a great blog and you want to keep up with new postings and comments. Instead of bookmarking that blog and going in to check it everyday, use a feed aggregator to subscribe to it so that the updates automatically come to you. Our group used Google Reader to practice subscribing. You will need to set-up a Google account to use Google Reader. You will be able to access an incredible number of other great applications from Google once you have this account. The only other feed aggregator I have tried is Bloglines. I was pleased with Bloglines but prefer Google Reader because I can add it as a component to my iGoogle homepage.

Once you are set-up with an aggregator it is simple to add blog subscriptions - just copy and paste the blog address into the subscription box on your aggregator.

Some services offer subscription bundles on particular topics or areas of interest. You can also create a feed on a topic you search in Google News. For instance, if you wanted any news updates on MySpace you would conduct a news search with the keyword "MySpace". When your search results are displayed, click on the "RSS" link on the left side of the screen. You will get a page full of code - do not be intimidated, simply look for the word "" and copy and paste the URL into your subscription box.

How to Use Blogs in the Classroom

Find a great classroom blog out there that mirrors your class - maybe students in Alaska are studying Egyptians the same time you are. Share their blog with your class and ask to be allowed to comment on what they are doing. At the same time share your class experiences with them. Sign-up for a "Recipe a Day" for your consumer science class. Keep your science students up-to-date on the most current news regarding global warming.

Planning for Your Classroom Blog

  • Starting a classroom blog takes as much time in planning and preparation as it does in setting-up the blog and getting it going. The more time you spend planning = less time dealing with problems. My advice on getting started:
  • Determine what you hope to accomplish with your blog.
  • Define your blog - will be be just for one class? just for one school year?
  • Write a mission statement and post it on the front page - make sure you share and discuss with your students
  • Have guidelines (also see guidelines) in writing (created by your or by your class) and require students to sign a contract agreeing to those guidelines. Have students take the guidelines home and have them signed by parents as a permission slip - consider sending a letter of explanation home to parents.
  • Familiarize yourself with safe Internet practices for students
  • Determine how often you will post to your blog and make a "date" with yourself to do it and stick with it!
  • How often do you want your students to contribute? Do you want to make it a class activity in the computer lab or allow them to do it on their own over a period of time?
  • Who will be allowed to see your blog? Who will be allowed to comment? Will you moderate the comments?
  • How will you grade student participation? What will be included in your rubric?

Getting Started

There are many free blog hosting sites available but for the classroom I prefer edublogs. Edublogs is free, easy, they offer tons of customer support and it was created especially for educators. Other sites include the one I'm using now - blogger, which is Google's blog service, and Classblogmeister.

For Further Study

There's plenty out there to read about blogging - thanks to Donna Goldsmith for the great links:
"Blogging Helps Encourage Teen Writing"
"Using Blogs to Enhance Middle School and High School Education"
"Rocking the Cyber Canoe: Blogging in English"
"Back to School With the Class of Web 2.0"
"25 EduBlogs You Simply Don't Want to Miss!"

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

2008 Presidential Election Resources

Lots of great activities to keep students engaged after PACT - many opportunities for cross-curricular lessons.

Friday, March 07, 2008

MovieMaker Magic

MovieMaker Magic
SCASL Conference 2008
Andi Fansher – Library Media Specialist, Beck Academy Middle School
Royanne McWaters-Baer – 6th Grade Social Studies Teacher, Beck Academy Middle School

If you have trouble downloading any of the documents, go to the SCASL wiki and scroll down to "Friday" for easy download

I created a set of instructions in PowerPoint - you can download from Google docs -

MovieMaker is a great piece of FREE software available for download from Microsoft. MovieMaker gives students the capability to combine narration, music, sound effects, still photos (using a digital camera, scanner, downloaded photos from the Internet or PowerPoint slides saved as jpgs) and digital video to create a movie.

MovieMaker can be adapted for any subject area for grades 6-12, and fourth and fifth grades with additional assistance. A project using this program will take about 2 weeks to complete and involves quite a bit of planning, but the results are worth it! The keys to making MovieMaker a success are organization and planning.

To get your project started, you will need to consider using some of the following organizational tools:

  • Timelines
  • Group Contracts
  • Storyboards
  • Scripts

Scaffolding this project by providing multiple due dates along the way will help your students be successful. Consider taking the following steps:

  1. Timelines - work with your classroom teacher to come up with a reasonable timeline. Timelines will vary depending on how much material is required in the movie, if students are taking their own photographs or videos and how much narration they must record. This is one of the most important pieces of information to communicate with the students - remind them of the timeline frequently.
  2. Groups & Group Contracts - divide your students into groups and have them think about the steps that they would best be suited to complete. Have each member of the group sign the contract. Royanne used a performance contract with her students.
  3. Storyboards (another example here)- the classroom teacher should outline the movie requirements in a rubric. Students can construct a storyboard by following the rubric. Consider making the storyboard a graded assignment.
  4. Scripts - students should conduct their research and write their script in scenes. Each and every word that will be included in their movie should be written here - this is not a time for outlines. Students may need to go back to modify their storyboard after they complete their script.

Now it is time to think about how students are going to go about researching their topic and gathering their media. Students should already have a detailed script and storyboard completed to remind them of what they are looking for. Their group contracts will help the remember what each person should be doing. We need to consider how students will store their information, how they will organize their information, citations and notes and using pathfinders.

  1. Information Storage - In Greenville County Schools, each student has a personal storage space on the district server called a "home directory". This is a secure place for students to store their work, but not always an ideal location to store group work as students must use a personal login to access their home directories. We have discussed obtaining a few class sets of flash drive storage devices for this type of group project. The drives would remain in the library and would be labeled for each group to make the project accessible for all group members at any time during the school day.
  2. Information Organization - Many younger students are not fully aware of the importance of file organization. When working with a MovieMaker project it is very important to keep all parts and pieces of the project together in one folder. It is easy to over organize or under organize photos, sound clips and video clips. Keep it simple and keep it all in one folder. Students should also be aware of the names of the media files they save - help them come up with a system of naming files so they will be easily accessible.
  3. Citation Note Sheets and Plagiarism - What a great opportunity to insert a lesson on ethical use of information and plagiarism! I like using citation note sheets to encourage students to take notes in their own words (discourages copying and pasting) and to help them record all information necessary for writing citations. (see more examples on my webpage) Make their notes a graded assignment and encourage teachers to require students to use print resources for research in addition to databases and websites.
  4. Pathfinders - A MovieMaker project is a pretty time consuming assignment - don't let students waste time aimlessly wandering the Internet. My feeling is that students either need the resources handed to them or need a lesson on searching and web evaluation - for this project is it most important that students get the information they need or is it most important that they learn to search and evaluate resources? I love to use pathfinders - research is fast and easy and students stay on task. Here is an example of a pathfinder I created for the Spanish movie project.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Technology Troubleshooting Tips

Inspired by Tim Van Huele's Basic Troubleshooting for Teachers , here are his 3 tips followed by my suggestions. They may sound simple, but I went through an hour-long ordeal with ETS because the sound was turned down on the right side of the monitor. DUH! It happens to everyone at some time.
  1. Check for power - is it plugged-in/turned on?
  2. Shut down and restart.
  3. Is the sound muted?
  4. Is there paper in the printer? (Error message reads "Load Cassette")
  5. Are you printing to the correct printer?
  6. Can't see anything on your laptop screen? Function + F8
  7. Can't see anything on your projector? Function + F8
  8. Can't send an email? Delete your junk mail and "deleted" messages.

Any other suggestions out there?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ban Those Book Reports!

Stop! Before you assign another "Bird Unit" book report, take a look at some alternatives to the same old book reports. There was a link posted on the SCASL listserv today to a page called Alternatives to the Traditional Book Report; 70 Book Report Ideas (Reprinted from Strenthening Your School Library Program: Practical, Innovative, Cost-Effective Ideas, Grades 6-12, by Patti Tjomsland, 2003). Some of my favorites include sneaky ways to integrate technology in your lesson:
  • 5. "Convert the plot into a ballad or song. Perform it." - How about making a podcast - link it to your blog and email a link to the author for their comments?
  • 14. "Educate a main character. What would your main character like to learn or need to learn? Describe this class and tell what you think the character would get out of it. What would he/she enjoy about it? Etc. Make it clear why you chose or created this class for this character." - Have students use a template to create a lesson plan and then create a PowerPoint they would use to teach.
  • 17. "Find a critic’s review of the book. Photocopy it and then write a comparison of your thoughts with the critic’s." - find a review on a blog and comment on it or create your own classroom blog.
  • 20. "Illustrate a number of important scenes in the book on overhead transparencies, PowerPoint or KidPix which you will use to tell the class the story of your book." - Use Microsoft PhotoStory to illustrate the story using pictures they find online (remember to cite sources!) or use a digital camera to create their own photos and narrate their PhotoStory. Use a storyboard to get started and require students to write a script.

Be sure to check-out additional suggestions from Martha Alewine (School Library Media Services for South Carolina) for student projects.

Please share other ideas you find!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Overdrive - Downloadable EBooks and Audio Books

Greenville County Schools has purchased a subscription to Overdrive. Overdrive allows students and teachers to download ebooks and audio books using their district log-in and password. Books can be saved to CDs or dowloaded to media devices.

Educator Plus at

Because of changes in technology (especially in our building) we are moving from the old BDS (building distribution system), cable television (we don't have it) and ETV satellite programming, I would recommend that you make special note of and bookmark Educator Plus for your viewing pleasure.

Programming includes SIC updates, "Carolina Careers" for your CDF, ESOL updates, Library Media Specialist Town Meetings, Foreign Language Town Meetings and much more. Stop fooling around with programming that old VCR and check out Educator Plus!

Test Your Students' Information Literacy IQ

Information Literacy is the ability to know when you need information, to know what kind of information you need, to know where to find this information, to know how to determine if it's good information and to use it effectively. There are a set of Information Literacy standards and those standards are integrated into state curriculum standards.

Thre is a tool available called TRAILS (Tool for Real-time Assessment of Information Literacy Skills). TRAILS is a web-based, multiple choice assessment targeting those Information Literacy skills. If you would like to assess your students' grasp of Information Literacy standards, please see me to schedule a session to test your students.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Teacher Web 101

The purpose of teacher webpages is to communicate with students and parents. Keep in mind that content, organization and navigability are your main concerns in creating your pages - design is secondary. You may have the prettiest pages with the most pictures and dancing monkeys, but that page won't help anyone if you don't include the information that your visitor needs in a format that is easily accessible.

Keep in mind that you want your visitor to find the information they need with the fewest clicks in the shortest amount of time. You will be required to create 5 pages (home, about, news, students, parents) in that order - with specific content. You should also include a page or pages for your syllabus. With your five basic pages in place, you only need to update your news page weekly or daily, depending on what you post. Add your new news to the top and keep a running list on this page.

Once you have created those 5 pages you may add extra material as you see fit. When creating additional pages, consider how often you will need to update them - don't create pages if you won't keep up with them. Why add a calendar if it will remain blank most of the year?

Here are the notes for the beginner web workshop.

For more on learning about creating a good site, view Patrick Crispin's presentation or visit the Greenville County Schools page for teachers.

Friday, July 27, 2007 - Annenberg Classroom Fact Check

I ran across this great site in the Librarians' Internet Index blog feed for - Annenberg Classroom Fact Check. In the site intro, they convey the following mission for their site:

"Our aim is to help students learn to be smart consumers of these messages, to see through the deceptions that they encounter daily, to dig for facts using the Internet and other resources, and to set aside prejudice and weigh evidence logically."

While intended for a high school audience, I think that most of the content could be modified for use with middle school students as well. This site offers a wonderful collection of lesson plans that would be appropriate for all core subject areas, including math (Suspicious Statistics) and science (Listerine). This site will work well with writing argumentative essays, debates and studying media awareness.
There is a topical search for Internet resources and "A Process for Avoiding Deception" for students to consider when conducting research.
The creators have included a helpful little dictionary (really a glossary), encourage you to ask them questions and an open discussion forum in the Faculty Lounge.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

One Minute How-To Podcast

I found a fun podcast this morning called "The One Minute How-To". Either the host, George, or a guest (an average person just like you) will explain how to do something in 60 seconds or less. Topics include "How To Get Your Artwork Hung Right The First Time", "How To Prevent Sunburn", "How To Save Time Editing Your Podcast Using Audacity", "How to Set Meaningful Goals and Reach Them ", "How To Organize A River Clean-up", "How To Read A Story Aloud" - just to mention a few of the 164 episodes. You can listen to them from "The One Minute How-To" website using your computer, download individual episodes or subscribe to the podcast feed using a "podcatcher" such as Feedburner or iTunes.
This would be a great exercise for the classroom, especially in ELA where most standards can be covered in The Writing Process, Communication: Speaking, Preparing and Presenting Information; make it a mini research project and include Selecting a Research Topic, Gathering Information and Refining a Topic; have students evaluate each other and cover Communication: Listening standards.
This activity could be modified for use in any subject area or grade level, but preparation and flexibility are of utmost importance. For all subject areas pre-writing is key.
Please share your ideas for your class!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Google Teacher

Thanks to Alan November @ SCASL 2007 , my eyes have been opened to the educational tools and ways to integrate Google tools into lessons. I subscribed to the Google Educator newsletter and found Google Teacher Activities to help you use tools such as Google Earth (with literature & social studies) into your lessons. See more ideas and activities at the Infinite Thinking Machine
Check out Google Notebook (a new one for me) to see how you can create lesson plans to help scaffold the use of the Internet in your lessons.
Too often we assume that students know what we know (or more) about using the Internet - not so. Students need guidance in creating searches, determining which search engine or database is most appropriate, evaluating search results and evaluating the information the uncover. Next time you plan a research project or a lesson incorporating the Internet, be sure to first determine if your lesson should be an opportunity to educate your students on the proper way to conduct an Internet search, or should your lesson be an opportunity for your students to access important information from the Internet quickly without spending extra class periods on search instruction. If your mission is the latter you should provide your students with links to relevant and reliable information using a webquest, pathfinder, Google Custom Search Engine or social bookmarking tool, such as Your friendly Library Media Specialist would LOVE to help you with these tasks :)
Find helpful "how tos" on how to use the incredible Google tools that are available for your use in your classroom at Tools for Your Classroom. I've tinkered with almost all the tools on this page and they are quite easy to use. Brainstorm with your classes to find ways to use these tools! Be sure to visit the Google Poster Page for really nice posters and quizzes to go along with your new lessons.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Upstate Technology Conference "Using Blogs and Wikis for Meaningful Instruction"

Sarah Hunt-Barron from Berea Middle did a wonderful presentation on using blogs and wikis in the classroom. She has used blogs in her ELA classes. I have summarized the blog portion her presentation here, but be sure to view her PowerPoint for all of her links and her website for other documents.

Often we feel like using new technologies are just "too much trouble" because it takes a long time to set-up and log-in, it's difficult to keep students on task, there are always technology "issues" and you have to think of new ways to assess student work. She recommends to always have a back-up plan - often technology does not cooperate with us the way we want it to. Don't waste a class period fighting a laptop cart, simply move on to another task and try again tomorrow. Don't think of log-in time as a waste of time, but think of it as "think time" for students to contemplate their EQ, prompt or assignment. Wouldn't it be great to have a blog reflect your EQ of the day everyday for an entire year?

Sarah pointed out that some benefits of blogging are that the activity "democratizes" your classroom and encourages those shy kids or kids who need more time to gather their thoughts to participate in class discussions, it's a great hook for learning and encourages depth of thought because their thoughts are out there for the world to see. Blogs can be used for any subject and in a cross-curricular manner, are standards-based and present a great opportunity for reciprocal teaching.

Blogs can be used many ways in the classroom, not only as journals. They can be an outlet for publishing student work (poetry, essays, etc.), a way for teachers to communicate and share information with parents and students (see example and promotes discussion among students - not just students within your classroom walls. Blogs do work very well as journals. Think about just logging on to your blog to read journals, type quick notes and not lugging home boxes of notebooks that can get lost, stolen or destroyed.

There are potential roadblocks (or opportunities for real learning) on the path to blogging:

  • Students may struggle with keyboarding...but practice makes perfect!
  • Students may be hung up on spelling...but thank goodness for spell check!
  • Students can't remember their login or password...keep a list close by.
  • Students are afraid to supportive and be sure to respond yourself to reluctant students.
  • Students are "snarky"...make sure they know you are reading their responses.
  • Students get off responses that guide them in the right direction.
  • Students are only writing in IM slang...require them to use formal language and discuss when to use different types of language.

When setting-up your blog, Sarah suggests that you find a blog site with few ads and that offers moderation capability. Suitable sites include:,,, .

Finally, some tips for fostering discussion:

  • Post questions that make students think and form/evaluate opinions
  • Make sure you allow enough time for thinking and responding
  • Have students read and respond to each other

From personal experience, I know that using blogs in a classroom can be trying. Be sure to set aside plenty of time for this exercise, monitor students closely to be sure they are staying on task and not playing, have a back-up plan in case of "technical difficulties" and don't give up! It may take several tries for your kids to get the hang of it.

Please share your classroom blogging experiences!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Upstate Technology Conference - Share What YOU Learned

Share your favorite session or cool new idea from the UTC with the rest of us!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Upstate Technology Conference Morning News Pre-Conference Session

In the session on morning news shows, Jeff McCoy demonstrated how to create a digital programs that can be used for a morning news show, special school productions and class projects. Jeff covered topics relating to:

  • Benefits of an organized news show (enhance instructional programs, increase writing and communication skills, develop knowledge of tech equipment, practice decision making and problem solving, enhance leadership skills, improve responsibility, teamwork and organization),
  • Basic equipment necessary to get started (laptop, lights, webcam, microphone and software such as Visual Communicator 3 by Adobe or Vlog It
  • Advanced equipment (video mixer, modulator, lights, switcher, tripod, microphones, sound mixer, VCR/DVD recorder, DVD burner tower and set props such as a green screen or backgrounds)
  • Setting up the morning news show (assigning roles such as director, producer, editor, sound technician and video technician)
  • Getting a morning news team started (brainstorm ideas for stories and story types, determine and assign roles, discuss expectations, deadlines and checkpoints, inform school population of procedures for submitting story ideas and deadlines for announcements, determine archival procedures).
  • Determine show format (welcome and introductions, pledge, lunch menu, morning announcements, moment of silence, sign off)
  • Expand the news programming (Word of the Week, Art Share, Spanish Special, Weather Update, Book Reviews, Technology Tuesday, Community Updates, After-School Activities, Fundraisers, Special Class Projects, Sports, etc.)
  • Involve the entire school (designate a class of the week for special activities such as the pledge, establish a theme of the week, broadcast activities from all over the school, focus on a student-led program, highlight classrooms, sell DVDs of each week's broadcast to fund the show, vlog the show so parents can watch at work or at home)

Upstate Technology Conference Podcasting Pre-Session

I attended two pre-conference sessions on Wednesday - "Podcasting" with Amanda LeBlanc, Mike Simmons and Paige Cochrane and "Serious Magic: Transforming your Morning News Show" with Jeff McCoy. For presenter downloads from the conference check the UTC site
In the podcasting session we were able to try out the new Creative MP3 players that were purchased by the RVPIMC. These MP3 players can be checked-out as class sets by teachers.

The presenters provided attendees with a very helpful handbook which explains the basics of what podcasting is, a glossary of terms, bibliography, instructions for subscribing to feeds and some ideas for locating podcasts of interest (The Education Podcast Network , Podcast Alley, Digg - Most Popular Education Podcasts, Podcast News - Directory of Podcast Directories , iTunes ).

Next, we explored ways to use podcasting in the classroom:
To enrich instruction:National Geographic Channel Brain Bites Stuff Being Made: National Association of Manufacturers as a Second Language Spanish - Survival Guide
For Studying and Class Review:Good example to explore: ColeyCast

Student Created Podcasts:Willoweb Radio The Official Podcasts from Room 34 Library
D.R. Hill Middle School - examples of using podcasts as projects in the classroom
Finally, we spent time creating our own podcasts. Some sites to help you get started:
How to create a student podcast from ColeyCast

Some basic steps to follow to create a podcast:

  1. Write a script
  2. Gather your materials: computer, microphone or omnidirectional headset microphone, install a free audio recorder and editor such as Audacity . Consider adding COPYRIGHT-FREE music or sound effects from a source such as Soundzabound. Greenville County has purchased a subscription, just ask your Library Media Specialist for the username and password.
  3. Publish your podcast - use a pod hosting site such a Podomatic or iTunes to post your podcast.