Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dude, I Got an App Opening Day!

I feel like no matter what I try, I am always behind the curve learning about new and wonderful things in the #edtech world. But isn't that the nature of technology?

Yesterday was my day to have a taste at being on the leading edge. It was yummy.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Youtube Scandal

OK, so how many of you have had this nightmare before: You spend hours the night before planning  great lesson. In fact, you even found an amazing Youtube video to go right along with your lesson. Thankfully for you, your school district has Youtube open for teachers. You save the link and can hardly sleep for excitement for the next day ... your kids are going to really get this!

The next day rolls around and you are ready to go. You have the Youtube video queued. Word of your amazing lesson even reached the principal, who is there to watch the magic happen.

You pull up the link. Before you can press play, one of your students asks, "what's that?" and points to the screen. The rest of the class is between giggles and ewwwwws. Your principal's face is turning a brighter shade of red by the minute and if you could just sink into the ground or just wake up ...

Friday, November 11, 2011

NG Young Explorers

Here's one for my peeps in early elementary: National Geographic's Young Explorer has an absolutely delightful online presence! Those of you with or without interactive white boards, your students will love reading the digital version of this magazine. As of right now, the past 16 issues are available online for your viewing and reading ... and listening pleasure! Yes, the pages turn and a speaker icon next to every piece of text means that you can pick and choose what to have read by the narrator.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Night at the Museum 2.0

It's all Richard Byrne's fault. If I hadn't stumbled upon a tweet about his post on Free Technology for Teachers about the WebRangers game on National Park Service, none of this would have happened. I would have never gone, "OMG, I simply have to add Web rangers to my school Weebly." (Note: the OMG is purely for effect. Really.)

Of course, you know how these things go. It plays out like a geeky version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. You see it, don't you? if you give a geek a website, she'll want to get a screenshot for her site. if she adds a screenshot, she'll want to add a link. When she copies the link, she'll think, "hmm ... I wonder what other museums and your-tax-money-at-work organizations have great kid-friendly presences online." And once she thinks that, she'll want to do a Google search for museum kids sites. When she gets her Google results back, she'll back link like a good Alan November protege' until she finds an absolute wealth of resources. In fact. she'll lose a whole night to it, even leading her equally geeky husband to make quips about it all.

One thing lead to another, and I discovered an under-appreciated wealth of knowledge and games and interactives on the Internet: museum websites.

Let's not forget mad props to zoos and zoological societies, because they totally have it join' on, too!

OK, Googling through all of these sites is a cumbersome prospect. One more thing for that ever-growing to-do list, right? Maybe not. I've got your starting point: Show Me. Show Me is a consolidation of the coolest kid stuff offered by the museums throughout the UK. Again, I am convinced that our colleagues across the ocean have got it going on! This is one rockstar website with a ton of resources from museum and zoo sites from all over the world. They don't just limit it to the UK.

For example, they have links to:

  • San Diego Zoo's kid site. Just beautiful. Go visit, but block off an hour or so, first! The games, especially in Safari park are a-ddicting!
  • WWF's Go Wild UK site. Another beautiful site. Great for research and for fun. (I know you're curious!)
Of course, links to the Dental Museum's Mouthpower and Scotland Water's Robopoop (I canNOT make that up!) remind me that truly everyone nowadays has an online presence. While I appreciate the tremendous job our water departments must do, I don't see a spot for Robopoop in my curriculum rich this second. The again, I think my students would get an absolute kick out of it. I see an April 1st lesson idea ... Hmm. 

Another great museum site is the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. They have a great range of games for different ages and even a few digital books here and there. My personal fave is the Lego Castle Adventure text which features a beautiful unit with lessons for grades K-6 that ties castles, knights, and writing fairy tales all together. Doesn't get more fun than that!

Not much more to say than that. I'd love to hear about your favorite zoo, museum, or federally funded sites. Catch me on Twitter (@bcteacher) or add a comment here! I'm always looking for more great sites and tools to share with others.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Flickr in the Classroom

Have I mentioned lately that I looove Flickr? It takes a little out-of-the-box thinking, but for the teacher willing to do a little digging, Flickr is an awesome tool.

Flickr is simply a web 2.0 tool for uploading and viewing photos from all over the world. Flickr features copyright and creative commons licensed materials as well as public domain images. While uploading pictures requires a login, searching and downloading photos does not.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Labeled with a Technology Disability

I consider myself a digital native. When I was little, I used to play letter games on my dad's Commodore 64. I developed some of the craziest typing skills you've ever seen by keeping up with lively conversations in Yahoo! Chat Rooms and on AOL Instant Messenger. Really, don't watch me type. It's ugly, but it gets the job done. I look like a circus "peculiarity" if touch-typing is your modus operandi. :-) But it's all good.

But I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, I am a digital native. At least, that's what I consider myself. I create media, I follow blogs, I love my Google Docs and my Twitter and my Scoop.It and all of my collaboration tools. I talk geek speak with the best of them and am constantly reminded by my colleagues that I've "lost" them.

Yes, by all intents and purposes, I'm a digital native. Fluent in the language of mobile technology and social media, I am comfortable having powerful conversations with my students about the challenges faced by digital citizens.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Zombies Ate My Home Row

Happy Halloween to one and all!

For those feeling ghoulish, might I recommend satisfying your appetite for zombies and all things creepy with NSTeens' Cyberbully Zombies Attack? For the rest of us, let's solve the dilemma of touch type keyboarding once and for all. Then again, maybe the zombies are sounding tempting, huh?

I thought touch-type keyboarding was like 1999 (or at least 2005 or so), but I've had other educators share their concerns about kids needing to be familiar with the keyboard and needing the practice. Point taken. A clear advantage of the good ole home row is that proficiency with it does enable one to watch the screen and not one's fingers. And it looks good, right? I am forever amazed at how quickly those fluent in touch typing can navigate a keyboard.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Critical Stance

We get too caught up in the details. At a meeting earlier this week, I was reminded of this as we discussed the best subskills to impart to struggling readers. It seems to me that we get caught up in all of the little subskills that we never get to the heart of the matter: teaching children to read for understanding.

Of course, that might have been enough 100 years ago, but the world of digital media and the ease at which any self-proclaimed expert can self-publish (even me!) makes me realize that this is simply not enough. I heard it said in one of my graduate classes recently that we have to help kids take a critical stance. Here, here! If we get caught up in all of the sub skills and think that kids are not ready to move on, then we never move them on to actually reading. I think that teaching for mastery is in part to blame for this. If a child must master all the letters, all the sounds, all of the blends and chunks and onsets and rimes, my goodness, we'll never get to reading!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Scenic Overlook Ahead

In a recent post, I presented some of my favorite resources for teaching digital citizenship. Of course, I forgot a few goodies. Doesn't that figure?

And so, in no particular order, here is the rest of my list:

Phineas and Ferb's Cyberspace Rules of the Road: Who doesn't love Phineas and Ferb? OK, admittedly, I fought falling in love with them pretty hard ... but they are lovable. Yes, even for us big kids. In fact, rumor has it that the creators intended for Phineas and Ferb to be a cartoon that even kids could watch. No typo there. Congrats, you are the target audience of one of Disney's top cartoons. Anyways, I digress. Phineas and Ferb present basic internet safety guidelines in this 90 second PSA that is sure to start plenty of conversations. You'll actually have to watch it twice, because I guarantee your kiddos will quote P&F word for word the first time through!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Diigo for Education

I switched from Delicious about a year ago to use Diigo. Social bookmarking by and by is still something I am still learning how to use. However, I now have a Diigo for Education account, and so far, so good. I am piloting its use with my two fifth grade classes and they seem quite excited about it. Then again, I maintain that 5th grade students love anything social. Hook them however you can, right?

If you haven't seen Diigo in awhile, check it out. Diigo 5.0 as they call it allows you to add highlight and sticky notes to websites. A new Diigo app and Diigo Browser app bring these tools to your favorite mobile device. Even the iPad. And we always love free apps.

Underwear or iPhone?

I was struck by a realization last night. Perhaps, if one spends more time with their iPhone than they do wearing underwear in a day, then perhaps they need to unplug.

Don't get me wrong, I am a geek through and through .... and through. But I also appreciate the opportunity to unplug. It's surprisingly refreshing to leave my phone behind and be completely unavailable. Teaching elementary kids, we have conversations about unplugging all of the time. I tell the kids, "go home and go play outside." Their response: "Naw ... we're going to stay inside." 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On the Road to Digital Citizenship

It feels good to be back at it again after a little welcome-back-to-school sabbatical. For me, the school year started last year when I was chosen to teach at a newly formed science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) elementary school in my district.

I'm too excited about what we are doing in my school and in my own classroom to take a break anymore. I launched this year with some work with digital citizenship and my big question for my students has been: what does it mean to be a digital citizen? Sounds simple ... but the answer to that question has been a little bit elusive.

I have to admit that it still makes me squirm when I hear my students discuss their Facebook pages ... mind you, they're in elementary school. I've decided that I can't help them navigate the internet safely though if I plug my ears and sing at the top of my lungs every time they mention their favorite social networking destination. Instead, I've also learned that I am the worst scripted program follower ... ever. In developing my lesson plans, I tend to wander from one resource to the next, playing off of the diversity and shades of netiquette that each provides. Rather than confuse my students, I've found that the resulting conversations are more dynamic and nuanced, giving kids a better picture of the challenges that they face every day when they plug in.

Monday, July 18, 2011

British Invasion 2.0

The future looks bright, by rogiro
Recently, I've come across a few fantastic resources from the UK that deserve mentioning.  They're newer toys on the market and definitely note- and play-worthy.

Spotify: This one's taken the geek world by storm.  Search for your fave music.  Play your fave music.  Share your fave music.  Crowd-source playlists and generally have a whole lot of fun.  Spotify is only recently in the United States (but Europe loves it!), and at the date of this post, still appears to have a waiting list for invites.  Premium features include the ability to listen to your jams offline or send them to your mobile device.  The rest is free ... and you know you're ready to try the newest music web 2.0 out there.

A small start

I guess everyone start somewhere, right?  And here I am, finally starting a blog I hope to be serious about.  I finally feel like I'm at the point where I have something to share, even if its by and by crowd-sourced from my Twitter network.

Kids have it easy, I think.  Kids readily jump in with both feet, even if they don't have the slightest clue how to do something.  As adults, we sit and wait and wait and wait for the right time.  And wait.

There is no right time.  You're never 100% ready for your new students.  You're never 100% ready for a baby.  We could learn a lot from kids.  I could learn a lot from kids.

I'm jumping in.  What's the old thing we used to yell as kids, oh yes, something to the tune of, "ready or not, here I come!"

Well, ready or not, here I am.