Ed Tech Ideas

Tech Integration for Busy Teachers

Monthly Archives: April 2010

Top 3 Paragons of the Week – Episode 15

Paragons of the Week is a reoccurring post highlighting resources that I find to be worth mentioning. I come across 100s of useful tools for educators each week. Below are the top 3 “paragons” that I found this week that I feel teachers might dig.To view previous Paragons, click here.

1. Learn Your Tables

Learn Your Tables is a nice interactive site that allows students to practice their multiplication times tables. Learn Your Tables is ideal for introducing topics on an interactive whiteboard, and for extension material on individual computers or in a lab.

2. Virtual Sistine Chapel

Virtual Sistine Chapel is an amazing 360 degree interactive view of the Sistine Chapel brought to you by your friends at the Vatican. You can fly around the amazing artwork and zoom into the frescoes at a pretty decent level. This site would be great for art history and religious studies.

3. Google Earth Now in Google Maps

Finally, the long awaited addition of Google Earth features within Google Maps!

Two Questions That Can Change Your Life

Daniel Pink is the author of the best selling books Drive, and A Whole New Mind. This is a great little video about 2 simple questions that you can ask yourself. 2 questions that can change your life and make you a better person.

So… Are you better today than you were yesterday? What’s your sentence? Choosing your sentence is an epic question; one that is not easily answered. Try doing this activity with your students and having them write about it. You’ll be amazed at what they come up with.

Top 3 Paragons of the Week – Episode 14

Paragons of the Week is a reoccurring post highlighting resources that I find to be worth mentioning. I come across 100s of useful tools for educators each week. Below are the top 3 “paragons” that I found this week that I feel teachers might dig. To view previous Paragons, click here.

1. Science Bob

Science Bob is a fun, interactive site that has several different areas for kids to choose from. There are videos, experiments, science fair ideas, and a research help link with a plethora of fantastic links to other sites.  Thanks to Richard Bryne for this find. Don’t forget to click on the “Whatever you do, Don’t click here” button (or not).

2. Grammaropolis

Grammaropolis is a fun, interactive site that helps students learn about the parts of speech.

Thanks to Kelly Tenkely for this great find.

3. Kwout

Kwout is a great tool that allows you to take web clippings off of any website and it will keep the links hot.

Great find from Mr. Man.

Virtual Piano Gets Re-tuned

A while back, I wrote about a website called Virtual Piano, a site that allows you to play a virtual piano using key-combinations on your computer keyboard. The beta version was fairly limited and I hoped that when they rolled out of Beta, some changes would occur that would focus more on some computer keyboarding skills.

The new version Virtual Piano is here and there are some nice changes that have taken place. There are a lot more song choices that guide you on songs such as Für Elise, Imagine, The Godfather, and more. The keyboard now has a key assist feature that places the corresponding letter/number on the piano keyboard.  This allows the user to create songs much easier.

Educational Uses:

While obviously not a typing program, Virtual Piano is a nice site for students to use occasionally to practice their keyboarding skills. Music teachers may want to use Virtual Piano to teach rhythm, patterns, melody, etc. Virtual Piano also has an on-going competition. Below is the winner from March, 2010:

The World Needs All Kinds of Minds

Temple Grandin is an amazing person. Born in 1947, she is a Doctor of Animal Science and a professor at Colorado State University. She is known for her work in the livestock industry, but is perhaps most famous due to her openness about her autism, and advocacy for autistic individuals. Watch the video and be inspired!

Temple Grandin is such a strong reminder that as educators, we need to continue to find what motivates each child, and find a way to light every single one of those individual flames.

Paragons of the Week – Episode 13

Paragons of the Week is a reoccurring post highlighting resources that I find to be worth mentioning. I come across 100s of useful tools for educators each week. Below are the top 3 “paragons” that I found this week that I feel teachers might dig. To view previous Paragons, click here.

1. Math Live

Math Live is a fantastic site to use for upper elementary students that has a plethora of cartoon math tutorials on subjects like fractions, multiplication, area and perimeter, tessellations, probability, and a variety of other topics. The glossary section is an amazing collection of math concepts animated for more solid understanding. Thanks to Kelly Tenkely for this find!

2. Animal Diversity Web

From the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, the Animal Diversity Web is an online database of animal natural history, distribution, classification, and conservation biology. Students can browse the information on individual creatures from the Kingdom Animalia and find 1000s of pictures on specific animals. What’s great about the Animal Diversity Web is that students can sign up to become contributors to the website. To do this, teachers must submit a request form.

3. PDF to Word

PDF to Word is a fantastically simple site that allows you do do just what the url suggests: Convert PDF documents to fully editable Word documents. You simple go to the site, upload your pdf, select either .doc or .rtf, enter your email and click convert. PDF to Word then emails you the word file upon completion. There is no sign up necessary and the turn-around time is approximately 10 minutes.

Stupid in America

If you haven’t seen this video, you may want to set aside 40 minutes and give it a watch. This is John Stossel’s 20/20 report about how public education in the United States is failing its students.

While watching this report I kept going back and forth agreeing and disagreeing with what was being said in the interviews and how the story was being directed. I taught in the public school system in California for 5 years before moving overseas in 2001. Students in my district were learning, engaged and progressing (albeit I taught grade 3, and the video states that as American students progress through school, they begin falling further and further behind their international counterparts).
Here are some of my questions and thoughts about Stupid in America:

  • Tenure – What other profession has this security embedded in the system? If a doctor is failing her patients, more than likely, she will not have a job. Why should teachers be so secure?
  • That being said, people are not “on” all the time. Teachers have off days. The boys on Wall Street had some off days and received bonuses. How is one to judge and prove that a teacher is ineffective?
  • Why is the public education system allowed to be a monopoly?
  • Why can parents not choose where to send their children?
  • Teachers also have to deal with so many other factors (emotional instabilities, parent inadequacies, abuse at home, etc.)
  • Rewarding teacher based on performance as is done in other industries is not feasible as there are so many outside factors involved beyond a teacher’s control.
  • The Rubber Room Documentary Interesting – I heard about this a couple of years ago.
  • The 6 hour, 40 minute day part is rubbish! I do not know a single teacher who has ever worked that short of a day.
  • Students having teacher’s cell phone number and schools requiring teachers to be available for “after-hours” help, is taking things a bit too far.
  • Why is school money not attached to a child, as in the case in Belgium and other countries?
  • People who use, “It never has been, it never will be” as a reason, generally do not know what they are talking about.

All in all, it is obvious that there is a major dilemma happening in the US public education system. It’s not as black and white as the video purports, but changes need to be made and Stossel asks some tough questions. To follow the debate that has ensued since this story broke, you can check out ABC’s page devoted to this.

“I’m a good teacher. I don’t need tenure to protect my job, I need tenure to be gone to protect my students.”

-Ashley Wirth
Keiller Leadership Academy

Top 3 Paragons of the Week – Episode 12

Paragons of the Week is a reoccurring post highlighting resources that I find to be worth mentioning. I come across 100s of useful tools for educators each week. Below are the top 3 “paragons” that I found this week that I feel teachers might dig. To view previous Paragons, click here.

1. E-Learning For Kids

e-Learning For Kids is a great site with some wonderful interactive learning games that are engaging and fun. Students click on their grade and then a list of games divided into subjects comes up. Thanks to @Ariellah for the find.

2. Rhymes.net

Rhymes.net is a simple search site that returns rhyming words to whatever you enter in the search field. The rhyming words are divided into syllables for ease of use and there is a list of photos of whichever word you search for. Even better, Rhymes.net automatically generates citations for bibliographies.

3. NeoK12

NeoK12 is a fantastic collection of videos arranged by subject that have been individually reviewed by K-12 teachers. The videos are all (at least the ones I’ve seen) via YouTube and all the adds have been stripped and related videos removed which, as an educator, is a great thing! There are also quizzes, games and puzzles as well as a cool presentation creator that helps teachers or students create presentations within the site. Also cool is the How it Works Section. Thanks to Kelly Tenkely for the find!

Kideos – Kid Friendly Video Site

Kideos is a great site for kids to safely watch videos online. Each video on Kideos has been screened by their “Video Advisory Council” before it makes it onto the site. The Kideos goal is to empower parents to feel comfortable allowing their child to spend time on Kideos, while also making sure children have a thoroughly entertaining experience.

The site is indexed by age groups which makes it easy for kids to search for videos. A good portion of the videos on Kideos are YouTube-based, so if your district has a blocking policy, you’ll need to look elsewhere (or use 3outube to download any YouTube video).

Uses in the Classroom

Depending on how you want to use Kideos in your classroom, be advised that a lot of the videos on the site are for general entertainment, and are not necessarily academic. However, there are some great channels within Kideos like Educational Videos, National Geographic, Space, Ocean, and more that would be perfect to send your students off to view and learn.

Global Book Club

What do you get when you connect elementary students from New York and Singapore with the single focus of books? You get the Global Book Club (GBC), a Shelfari group organized by George Haines. GBC currently stands at 76 members of students and teachers from different classes from the Diocese of Rockville Centre and Singapore American School. Each week students login to their Shelfari group and have discussions about a variety of books which are self-selected by the students. The discussions are started by the students about books they’ve recently read, and if other students have read the same book, they chime in to the thread with their two cents worth.
Here are some examples:


Students love adding books to their shelves and sharing what they thought of each book. Knowing that they have a real, genuine audience truly motivates them to write more detailed reviews and improve their spelling, grammar and word choice. Being that this project also emphasizes discussions, we encourage the students to ask questions and keep the conversations going. Students also discovered some new books they probably wouldn’t have ever found, after reading some reviews written by other students.

Tomorrow’s Renaissance Student

Cross-posted at vickyloras.wordpress.com

Leonardo da Vinci is regarded as one of the greatest thinkers of all time. Part of what’s so amazing about da Vinci is that he was so well-versed in such a broad variety of areas. Music, architecture, math, botany, engineering, art, and more; da Vinci was known as the archetypal renaissance man. During da Vinci’s time, one needed to be a polymath to be considered learned. If you needed questions answered, you would either have to ask your parents, a priest, or hope that you had someone like da Vinci living nearby. Granted, having knowledge wasn’t always regarded as a positive thing by the powers that be, and it could often get one in trouble. We have definitely come a long way since the 15th century, and today’s Renaissance men and women think and learn a whole lot differently than the polymaths of da Vinci’s time.

Is Technology Making us Dumb?

Some case-and-points of negative impacts of technology: I came across an article in LifeHacker this morning about CapSee, an app that will notify you if your capslock is on… Wouldn’t that fact that you’re now typing all capital letters notify you of this? I still remember the phone numbers of Brian Craw, Andrew Smalldon, Jason Hall, Emily Podesta and the local movie theater in the town where I grew up. I used to have to dial (with an actual dial) these numbers. I haven’t called these friends for 25 years, but the numbers still remain in my memory. Today, I do not know any numbers by heart. I checked into a hotel a few days ago and the front desk clerk asked me what time my return flight was. I didn’t know, but was comfortable with the fact that I could login and check my online calendar.

Are we so reliant on technology that rote memorization and instant recall is fading? Or are we simply doing so many more tasks in our daily lives that we don’t take the time to remember simple things that we know are within reach of our nearest computer device?

A Renaissance at Your Fingertips

There’s no doubt that technology is now, and will continue to be embedded into our daily lives. We are continuing to grow ever more dependent on computers and one would have to really make an effort to go a day without directly interacting with, or indirectly being affected by some sort of technology. Today’s da Vincis, instead of being a wealth of memorized information, should know how to quickly access and call up information from various sources. They need to know how to problem solve, collaborate, adapt, manipulate, and utilize information. John Sowash, who writes the Electric Educator, states that:

We are in an age of information. Storing facts in our brains is a pointless exercise (unless you plan on being on Jeopardy!). In the era of the iPhone, any fact, statistic, or desirable piece of information is only a few clicks away. The skill of the 21st century that will set people apart is what they can do with the information that is available to them. What new products, services, or procedures can be improved, created or derived from the information that we have? Knowing is not as important as using.

Tomorrow’s Renaissance Student

So what does this mean for education? How are we preparing our students to be technological polymaths who are able to navigate the sea of information available at their fingertips? According to research released by Project Tomorrow and Blackboard, only a third of parents think that schools are doing a good job preparing students for the 21st century (which is already 1/10 of the way through, by the way). The research also showed that only 40 percent of students in grades 6 through 12 think their schools are doing a good job preparing them for the future.

Learning for the 21st Century, a report from a public-private coalition known as the Partnership for 21st Century Skills offers up the following steps for educational reform to better prepare our students for the future:

  1. Core Subjects: The authors reaffirm the importance of the core subjects identified by No Child Left Behind but challenge schools and policymakers to expand their focus beyond “basic competency” to understanding the core academic content at much higher levels.
  2. Learning Skills: “To cope with the demands of the 21st century,” the report states, “students need to know more than core subjects. They need to know how to use their knowledge and skills-by thinking critically, applying knowledge to new situations, analyzing information, comprehending new ideas, communicating, collaborating, solving problems, and making decisions.”
  3. 21st Century Tools: Recognizing that “technology is, and will continue to be, a driving force in workplaces, communities, and personal lives in the 21st century,” Learning for the 21st Century emphasizes the importance of incorporating information and communication technologies into education from the elementary grades up.
  4. 21st Century Context: Experiences that are relevant to students’ lives, connected with the world beyond the classroom, and based on authentic projects are central to the sort of education the Partnership for 21st Century Skills defines as the appropriate context for learning in the information age.
  5. 21st Century Content: The report’s authors believe that certain content essential for preparing students to live and work in a 21st century world is missing from many state and local standards. (See list.)
  6. New Assessments that Measure 21st Century Skills: “As pervasive as assessment seems to be today,” the report says, “it remains an emerging and challenging field that demands further study and innovation.” Recommendations include moving beyond standardized testing as the sole measure of student learning; balancing traditional tests with classroom assessments to measure the full range of students’ skills; and using technology-based assessments to deliver immediate feedback.

Gimme Hope da Vinci!

Being a computer teacher at a large international school, I have the privilege of working with some amazing educators and students. Teachers are actively engaged in updating their technology skills and at times, even learning alongside their students (modeling lifelong learning). They are attending workshops and conferences, reading blogs and professional journals, learning via online courses, and even Tweeting with their PLNs and updating their professional blogs. Students are actively engaged in their learning; utilizing appropriate technologies to problem solve, collaborate, communicate, as well as to increase learning and productivity. We are not “there” yet, and our aim is to never actually arrive, but to continue the lifelong journey of promoting each student’s social, emotional, and academic aptitude to develop into the global leaders of tomorrow.

Blinding ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!
Leonardo da Vinci

Top 3 Paragons of the Week – Episode 11

Paragons of the Week is a reoccurring post highlighting resources that I find to be worth mentioning. I come across 100s of useful tools for educators each week. Below are the top 3 “paragons” that I found this week that I feel teachers might dig. To view previous Paragons, click here.

1. SweetSearch

SweetSearch is a safe searching site for students. Most search engines search billions of Web sites and return tens of millions of results; some are from reliable Web sites, some are not.  SweetSearch searches only 35,000 Web sites that have been evaluated and approved by a staff of Internet research experts at Dulcinea Media, and its librarian and teacher consultants.

2. Cells Alive

CELLS Alive! represents 30 years of capturing film and computer-enhanced images of living cells and organisms for education and medical research. The site has been available continuously and updated annually since May of 1994 by Jim Sullivan and now hosts over 4 million visitors a year.

3. Catch the Science Bug

The educational goals of Catch the Science Bug are to increase science literacy and raise environmental consciousness by adhering to national standards and guidelines for content and use different teaching methods to engage all types of learners, and encourage life-long learning by featuring scientists who model this behavior.

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