Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gaming Technology Makes Science Learning Infectious

Gaming technology complements the inquiry approach central to science education. Ken Eklund’s as the title implies uses mysteries to engage students in science learning. Eklund boasts that teachers who have used the site found students captivated. Titles of his mysteries include “Strange Dead Bird,” “Poison Dart Frog,” “River of Venom,” “Angry Red Planet,” and “Croak”: clearly, Eklund is tareting the middle school student with these titles. Given the games are mystery stories, blending the science and language arts curricula holds promise.

For middle school students,
Medical Mysteries teaches them about infectious diseases. The site is set up as a series of missions that students explore sci fi fashion. Again, pairing with the language arts is a natural. Check the site for details.

Another game,
The River City Project, funded through the National Science Foundation, is also aimed at middle schoolers. The fictitious town, River City, is based on “authentic historical, sociological, and geographical conditions,” and is "besieged with health problems. Students work in “research teams understand why residents are becoming ill” and “keep track of clues that hint at causes of illnesses, form and test hypotheses, develop controlled experiments to test their hypotheses, and make recommendations based on the data they collect,” according to the site's designers.

Teachers using gaming technology underscore the need for curricular materials to support the projects. Leslie Miller, of the Center for Technology in Teaching and Learning, has worked with a team of teachers to design packets with learning objectives, glossaries of terms, curricular standard matches, and worksheets for Medical Mysteries.

After checking one or more of the sites, let us know what you see as the potential of online gaming technology to attract students to understand scientific concepts. Do these sites also support inquiry-based learning, considered central to science learning? Do you think gaming technology with catch on not just in the science curriculum but also in other curricular areas? Let us know your thoughts on the potential of gaming technology to complement instructional goals.

First two Images from Ken Eklund’s Second two images from and respectively.

So What's To Read, Write, and Think?

Those of you in the field of language arts/English instruction are probably familiar with the Read/Write/Think website portal for lesson plans, links to online resources, and materials for student use. The site is endorsed by the International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). In addition to activities in the language areas, the site promotes bridging the disciplines, and, thus, will be of interest to all educators. A special “Summer Activities” link is available for those of you looking for literacy activities for children over the school recess. Check the site, and let us know what you find most useful. Do you agree with the site’s claim: “Providing educators and students access to highest quality practices and resources in reading and language arts instruction”? Post your comments.

Image from the Read/Write/Think site at

Friday, May 30, 2008

PowerPoint Points

Check this article "Of PowerPoint and Pointlessness" , and this YouTube Video, "Death by PowerPoint" at, and post your comments.

image from:

Lesson Plan Ideas

Let's take a look at the Thinkfinity site, a portal for accessing free online lesson plans. Indicate your grade level and search by educator for a lesson plan in a specific subject area. After you have had some time to explore the portal, let us know what you think. Did you find any valuable lesson plans? Did you find the portal easy to use? Would you recommend it to others. Post your responses.

Podcasts Empower Learners

The Education Podcast Network

National Public Radio

Grammar Girl

Wondering what podcasts are and how they can enhance learning.
The Education Podcast Network is a portal for podcasts created by students K-12. It is worth exploring to see what students in all grades and across the content areas are doing with podcasts in their schools. The National Public Radio site enables you to access quality podcasts to integrate into your teaching. As for Grammar Girl, it is the latest rage and a sure
catalyst for boosting grammar and word usage skills, in an entertaining, engaging way. This site is a favorite among teachers, as well as students. Can't remember when to use "affect" versus "effect," what a "comma splice" is, or just want to brush up on skills, Grammar Girl offers "quick and dirty" tips for remembering usage rules. Explore! Explore! Explore! All three sites are top-rated, visited by millions. Add the URLs to your Favorites/Bookmarks, and tell your colleagues to visit, too. After trying any one of the sites, consider how you might use podcasts in your teaching: How can you tape into their power, how can students use them to broaden their learning? Take a few moments to navigate one of the site, and share your responses.

Images from: and

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Penny for Your Thoughts

What do you think of paying students to receive good grades? As you might have heard, some schools have started reward programs for students to excel, including doing well on state-mandated exams. In some cases, school systems in which students have fared poorly have received grants to improve scores. These grants pay students lump sums of money if they meet state standards. I posted a blog on this topic a few months ago, with details about school systems that have tried this subversive tactic, or is it subversive at all?

A recently released research report found a positive correlation between students’ reading scores and rewards programs. To read a synopsis of this study, click on the link:

Also, check my blog post, “Pay for Grades,” published on March 5, 2008.

What are your thoughts on offering students rewards programs such as cash, field trips, tickets to amusement parks, and so forth for doing well on high-stakes tests?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Facebook’s New Facelift: Internet Safety

Connecticut’s crusading Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, is back in the news, this time campaigning for Internet safety. Along with other states’ leaders, Blumenthal pioneered steps to make Facebook and MySpace, the two most popular social networking sites among teens and children, safer.

Safety nets ban sexual predators from the sites and curb cyberbullying through vigilance and deleting inappropriate postings. Steps to improve verification of user’s identity and age will limit young children’s use of specifc features on the sites.

Education Week in its May 8, 2008 issue reports that Facebook has agreed to:

“— Ensure companies offering services on its site comply with its safety and privacy guidelines.
— Keep tobacco and alcohol ads from users too young to purchase those products.
— Remove groups whose comments or images suggest they involve incest, pedophilia, cyberbullying or other inappropriate content.
— Send warning messages when a child is in danger of giving personal information to an unknown adult.
— Review users' profiles when they ask to change their age, ensuring the update is legitimate and not intended to let adults masquerade as children.”

Facebook and States Agree on New Ban (2008, May). Education Week. Retrieved May 26, 2008, from ttp://

Image from:

What are your views on imposing legal sanctions and controls over popular social networking sites among the young? Post your comments.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Blogs for Teaching
Looking for some ideas for using a blog in your teaching. Check out the link above, and see if it helps. Let us know how helpful you find what Education Week offers on its blogboard for accessing samples of teacher blogs. Post your comments. Also, if you know of teacher blogs we should check out, post their URLs.
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Frustrated By Online Searches!

The "Four Nets for Better Searching Web Lesson" offers a way for you and your students to overcome hassles with doing online searches. Here is a lesson to help students hone their online research searching skills by using Google Advanced Search and other tricks. A 4-step process for students to learn how to search online effectively is offered in the lesson plan. Check it out, and let us know what you think. If students are taught successful skills for online searching, they will save lots of time and reduce frustration. Do you think this lesson with its accompanying resources will achieve that aim? Did you learn anything new by reviewing the tips offered in the Four Nets lesson? Post your comments and responses.
Image is from the fourents page, using the above URL.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Do Interactive Textbooks Enhance Learning?

We all know that textbooks become dated fast, and they have the disadvantage of not being particularly interactive. With new technology, however, the situation is bound to change. To learn more about the future of interactive textbooks and the potential demise of the conventional textbook of yore, click on the hyperlink to read the article, “WikiTexts: Learning Better by Writing the Book.” After you read the article, be sure to post your comments. We want to hear from you? Do you think wikitexts will catch on? What advantages might they have? What might be the drawbacks, if any? How does the concept of wikitexts help you re-envision education, perhaps seeing it differently from the way you were taught?

Image credit and link to article in Linux News:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Classroom Management Put to the Virtual Test

Here is an innovative way to help teachers hone their classroom management skills. The University of Central Florida has set up a virtual classroom for teachers to practice classroom management skills. To learn more about how virtual learning is occurring in this context, refer to this article in the Orlando Sentinel, and then post your comments. For beginning teachers, do you think this kind of virtual learning will work? What other possibilities can you envision for using virtual reality to prepare pre-service teachers as well teachers already in the classroom?,0,7273706.story
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Digital Writing's Effect on Teens

The quoted excerpt below turned up today in the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) online newsletter and is of concern to all of us as we wonder about how digital writing is affecting teens and whether they view writing as essential skills to their future. As teachers, we all need to be concerned about digital technology as well as how receptive teens are to learning the skills of formal writing skills. Take some time to read further. The hyperlinks above will take you directly to the sites to learn more; the first link is to the Pew study report, in pdf format, and the second link is to The Christian Monitor article cited in the NCTE blurb. The hyperlinked texts in the blurb will also take you directly to the two sources. Please remember to post your comments after you review the materials. We want to hear your views as educators.

From In-box: NCTE, May 20, 2008, distributed via the

"Turn Teen Texting toward Better WritingThe Pew Internet & American Life Project and the College Board report Writing Technology and Teens notes that 85% of teens communicate through digital writing and 86% percent of teens consider formal writing skills essential to future success. In addition, it notes that over half of teenagers from all races and income levels have social networking profiles in places like Facebook and MySpace. The Christian Science Monitor, May 14, 2008."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Internet Safety

Today, I had the chance to visit the blog of a school librarian, Peggy Milam Creighton, and found one of her posts about Internet safety particularly useful. She offered these resources for safe exploration of online resources. Check this link for some useful tips, and let us know what you think. Post a comment:

Image from:

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