Sunday, February 28, 2010

Professional Learning Networks are Essential

Do you have a PLN?  After attending the ICE conference this past week, I have an even greater appreciation for my expanding PLN.  I learn so many new things from them and also enjoy the collaboration and enthusiasm we all share for learning.  During this past year, I have been participating on Twitter, Nings and various blogs, and I have come to rely on these resources for the new ideas and energy that I need to be able to teach my students.   There are always people who have great resources and new ideas for ways to incorporate technology into the curriculum.  I find that if I have not checked in with these resources for a few days I am not as excited about my teaching.

At the technology conference this past week, I gave a presentation on incorporating the whiteboard into classroom instruction for differentiation and tier 1 interventions.  I was amazed by the turnout (standing room only) and the consequent positive feedback from those that attended my presentation.  Where else in the world would people come up to you and tell you that they really liked your presentation?  The positive feedback is like a shot in the arm, and gives me the validation I need to know that I am on the right track and providing positive instruction for my students.  I feel very lucky to be able to be a part of such a positive group of educators who want to make a difference and are willing to go out of their way to let you know you have had a positive impact on their teaching as well.  It is also exciting to go back and visit the conference wiki to access the many resources that the presenters have put online to share.

If you don’t have a PLN, it is easy enough to get started!  I created an account on Twitter and started to follow those individuals who I had seen and admired at past ICE conferences, such as David Jakes and Will Richardson.  Then I investigated who they follow and then I add some of their network to my network!  Before you know it, you have a wealth of resources at your fingertips! 

In education we keep encouraging our students to collaborate with each other.  I think it is essential that we practice what we preach.  So if you don’t have a PLN, I would recommend you get one so you can be a good example to your students!

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Second Chance at Life

Have you ever wanted a second chance at life?  Oh, you know, where you would have more control over your destiny?  Then you should check out the Second Life virtual world. It is known as “The Internet’s largest user-created, 3D virtual world community.”


The possibilities are endless there.  You can meet people, go shopping, travel, work, and even find love!  You are also able to create who you are and how you look.  That alone was enough for me!  So I logged in and created my avatar with a long ponytail, cape and more!  I then began to explore and the different places with my fellow students from class.  I was glad I wasn’t the only one that did not know how to sit, make friends and fly.  I have tried to explore Second Life in the past but quickly gave up out of frustration.  Now we were pioneers exploring together and we were able to talk to each other and collaborate, which made the experience much more enjoyable.

After learning the basics, I explored some of the many educational sites in Second Life.  I see great potential for using this with older students in school.  I went to the Tsunami and was able to see how the wall of water comes up on the beach and quickly washes away everything in its path.  Students would learn so much from just watching that short clip.  There is also a book that you can read for further information.  After I dried myself off from the Tsunami I went to explore the space museum where you are able to see the different space ships and even board them for further exploration.  There were also meeting areas and conference rooms, which could be used for “virtual collaboration.”

The time passed so quickly with my fellow classmates that I went back into Second Life later on for further exploration.  I was surprised to see the complexity of this virtual world.  There are ski resorts, beachcombing events, and even a virtual Sistine Chapel with authentic artifacts, to name a few.  Overall I found it to be very interesting.  It can be frustrating at times to figure out how to explore and knowing how to find everything within the different areas.  I would recommend reading the quick start guide before you start.  I can definitely understand how people can lose themselves for hours when there is so much to see and do.  I would recommend checking it out. Maybe I will even see you there!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Social Networking in School - Not an Oxymoron

Can you imagine being on Facebook at school?  Impossible you say?  Not with Edmodo, a free, private social platform for teachers and students to share ideas, files, events and assignments. This Web 2.0 tool was created by Jeff O’Hara, who recently participated in a Classroom 2.0 Ning webinar explaining how to use it successfully with your students.  I have used it with my students and have had fabulous results!

Once the class got past the “adding a picture to my profile” phase, we discussed the Great Depression and how it affected Americans.  The comments from my Special Education students were far more comprehensive than any other assignment we have completed.  I think the students feel more comfortable using the social networking platform than pencil and paper. The students’ comments are viewed by their classmates, and therefore there is more accountability with their peers than when the teacher is the only person viewing their assignments.  Also, some students who are uncomfortable responding in class are more comfortable responding in this format. The students were so motivated to participate that some even went to the public library to check their accounts since they do not have Internet at home! I also noticed that the students’ level of participation increased significantly when using Edmodo, and they ask at the beginning of class, “Are we using Edmodo today?”

Since Edmodo is private, it is a safe alternative to traditional social networks to use in the classroom. Teachers and students can send notes, links, files, alerts, assignments, and events to each other. No email is required and it can be private or public, depending on the teacher preference. It is so easy to use.  Teachers sign up for accounts, and then create groups. Each group has a unique code which the teacher givers to the students. Then the students can sign up and join the class group. I was very surprised at how intuitive it is to use with my students.  There is also a mobile web version, which allows teachers and students to use Edmodo on their mobile device.  There is even an Edmodo wiki with screenshots and directions for using Edmodo.

Edmodo is becoming very popular, and it has been reviewed on:

Edmodo continues to include more features.  During the webinar on Feb. 13, 2010, Jeff O’Hara talked about the Beta version of “Chalk”, which will be an added feature, which will allow students to collaborate on the same document in a way that is similar to Etherpad or Google docs.  The lesson possibilities for Edmodo are endless.  If you have not checked out Edmodo yet, you need to because your students will be so excited to use it you will have to beg them to stop working at the end of class!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Web 2.0 Tool

What is a Web 2.0 tool?  According to Webopedia, the Web 2.0 is “the term given to describe a second generation of the World Wide Web that is focused on the ability for people to collaborate and share information online.”  There are many of these Web 2.0 tools that are useful in education.  A new one that I think is easy to use and is very flexible for integration into the curriculum is  This free site allows users to add a post-it note with up to one hundred sixty characters to a wall, and others can collaborate and add to the same wall at the same time.  The “wall of post-its” can be private if desired, filtering is possible, and the post-it notes can be moved. The post-its can include text, images, links, video and music.  The opportunities for collaboration with students are endless, and an email account is not required either.

In my district, students use paper post-it notes while reading a novel to document various literary elements as well as character traits etc.  It would be very exciting for students to be able to use the tool to add character traits, story elements, examples of literary elements and even quotes to the “novel wall” to expand the pool of ideas of the class while studying a novel.  Another lesson idea for this tool would be for the teacher to post videos of an abstract concept, for example the laws of motion, and students would add a post-it to describe the particular concept in one hundred sixty characters or less, which requires a great deal of critical thinking.  Another example would be for the students to take notes on the post-it about a historical event, for example the causes of WWI, and then other students would add their brief comments about the resulting effects. Similarly, a music teacher could have the musical notes displayed on a post-it and the students would add the audio file of that music to the wall.  The possibilities are endless. 

Although this Web 2.0 tool was not initially meant for use in education, I think it would be a great tool to use in school for all grade levels as well as with teachers.  Resources that teachers use could be posted on the wall for others to view.  The benefits of this site are the ease of use and the flexibility with file type.  I am excited to use this with my students to see if they think it is as much fun to use as I do.