Thursday, February 25, 2010

Be Imaginative, Create a Comic Strip

Need some time to relax and play like a kid. Try out the MakeBeliefs site. Create your own comic strips easily. Then imagine young children using the site to create comics, practicing their literacy and imaginative skills. In addition to writing in English, students can write in Spanish, Italian, and other languages. There's a Teacher Resource section. Check out "About the Author" to learn about the site's writer and illustrator. Try creating a few panes in a comic strip with the options available: characters, text boxes, think bubbles, objects, sizing, moving, and backgrounds. Remember to give your strip a title and to list yourself as its author. Use the Next feature when you are ready to print, or email your creation to a reader. It takes a little trial and error to get going, but it should not take you long to create your first comic. Have some fun and a few laugh! Let us know what you think.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

YouTube Now Accepts College Applications

Some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher education now encourage applicants to submit a YouTube video as part of their application. Okay, this might be a good idea on the surface. High school students already enjoy making videos and uploading them to YouTube. But what the college application now be made public via the Internet? Here are two videos high school seniors submitted as part of their application to Tufts University. Given I found them on YouTube and can easily embed them as ready-to-play on, what do you see as the pros and cons of college application materials moving to public spaces and social networking sites? Here's Chania Cohen's "Walk in My Shoes" video she used for her application. (Click the arrow to view it; the videos is shorter than 2 minutes.)

Here's Amelia Downs' math nerd and dancing video, also part of her Tufts' application.

These videos and others that students have submitted to YouTube as part of their application packet have had over a 3,000 hits as of yesterday. Tufts claims that this year as many as 1,000 applicants submitted YouTubes. Given the number, it is understandable why an admission committee finds YouTube a convenient storage site and easy way to access and organize reams of digital materials.

Some schools even send with acceptance letters a video that pops on the screen as soon as the student opens email. For instance, Yale sends a rendition of "High School Musical."

What's your response to the use of videos, especially ones available on the world wide web, as part of the college application packet? How do you feel about the application process being in public view? When was the last time a college essay had that many readers? Will a centralized blog or wiki, available to the public, be the way students submit essays? Or is the visual nature of YouTube and its capacity to store large video files that make it more so the go-to venue for telling admissions committees, and in the meantime the rest of the world, "Who Am I."

Monday, February 22, 2010

10 th Grade Graduation to Begin 2011 in Connecticut

The New Haven Register today ran a story about the soon-to-be 10th grade graduation in the state. Parents and teachers offered responses to the article. Read both the article and comments. I know I have posted on this topic two times in the last week, but given the reality that this initiative is in our own backyard, let's be knowledgeable and keep current of the dialogue. Read all about it at: State to Test Early Graduation Initiative. And see the other two blog postings from last week that speak to the initiative on both the national and state level. Even consider posting a comment on the New Haven Register page; there is place that invites comments.

Logo from New Haven Register, online.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Graduating High School After 10th Grade

Just this past Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010, I posted an article, High Schools to Offer Plan to Graduate 2 Years Early, about students getting a jump start on college. I am now posting a link to read about the issue from the perspective of several educators including college presidents. Check on this debate using a posting from The New York Times, Feb. 18, 2010: A Diploma in 10th Grade?
The Gates Foundation has already funded such initiatives and plans to be involved in the 10th grade graduation initiative. School systems are likely to join the bandwagon knowing both private and public funding will be forthcoming. The federal government has already earmarked funding, and states have applied for the funding. One of the states to start the program in the immediate future is Connecticut, as part of the federal initiative. Several towns and the cities will be participating, and invitations have been sent out statewide.

Those of you interested in secondary education should keep current of the issue. In fact, those interested in education in the earlier grades might want to consider how the traditional K-12 curricular sequence will change with implementation of this plan.

After reading through the postings about the debate, via A Diploma in 10th Grade?, what is your position, and why?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Share PowerPoint Slides with Your Department and Students

A convenient way for a group of educators to collaborate and share their slide presentations is through the site SlideShare, at Check into how Texas A & M University's Writing Center uses the site to share its instructional slide shows with its students as well as other viewers. View some of the presentations to understand the purpose of why the university has mounted its instructional presentations in SlideShare. Consider how SlideShare or similar slide sharing sites might be used in other educational settings such as at the K-12 level? (Be forewarned, you will need to tolerate some ads, but the site is free, and has lots of potential.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What Does the iGeneration Mean for Teaching?

Tech-Savvy 'iGeneration' Kids Multi-Task, Connect posted in USA Today offers viewpoints on the effects of social networking on children of today. Although research has largely focused on the multi-tasking skills of preteens and teens, researchers are now looking at how those under 10 are responding to the variety of technological media surrounding them and how this environment will affect how they develop and will be motivated to learn in school.

A 12-year old from West Hartford, CT is quoted, reminding us of the frequency with which people her age post videos on Facebook via webcams. Another youngster of 3 is described as having "a collection of nine cellphones; four are the non-working cast-offs of family members, and the others are plastic, including Cinderella, Tinker Bell and Dora the Explorer. She also has a plastic pink-and-purple Barbie laptop, which has its own mouse and programs that teach math, vowels and Spanish, as well as some computer games."

What is your response to the research findings and reports cited in the article? What do you see as the implications for teachers as the newer generations progress through school?

Photo is from the article with the byline and note:
By Joe Brier, for USA TODAY
Heather Nokes, 18, watches as her 3-year-old sister Kaci, 3, uses a Barbi Learning Laptop for math and spelling practice, while Wendy, 13, holds her cellphone in their Winchester, Va., home. All born after 1990, the sisters are considered part of what sociologists are calling the iGeneration.

Jump Start on College

Eight states, Connecticut among them, are about to pass a law allowing students after the 10th grade to begin their college career. To read about the program and its goals and implications, check the link below to a New York Times article. According to this model, fewer students will need remedial courses upon entering college than is the case now. Students who are eligible to participate will earn their high school diploma at the end of 10th grade and begin their college career at a community college, eligible to later transfer the credits to a 4-year institution to earn a bachelor's. If they decide not to matriculate at a 4-year institution, they will have a jump start on a variety of careers upon completion of coursework at the community college. Here's the article: Plan Would Let Students Start College After the 10th Grade. What's your response?

image from:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Blog to Print

In a reversal of the current trend to turn print books into e-books, I just got an "invite" to turn my blog into a printed book in softcover or hardcover for $14.95 and up. I can even elect to include a dedication, probably for additional fee. Wow, we now go both ways: from e-publishing back to printed books, not just from taking printed books and converting them to e-books. This was a shock. Have others heard of turning electronic texts into printed books! I will let you know more if I investigate the offer to convert my blog into a published book. However, the offer makes me wonder, if teachers sponsored blogs with their students, K-12, and then had the full blog published at the end of the year as a book, how would students feel seeing their collaborative work in a book? Any thoughts?

Inspiring Life Lessons Told Through Video

I found these “Do Now” assignment suggestions in the Ning in Education. The assignment asks students to watch a video. Beforehand, they reflect on a series of question, and after viewing the video, they contemplate a prompt the teacher provides. To see the original plan as presented by the teacher, Scott Habeeb, use this link:

Scott concludes, “Lessons like these, embedded into a Do Now assignment, can be a fun way to start off class, a great way to connect with your students, and an opportunity to teach your students about life.”

For now, I am posted two of his suggestions as he describes them verbatim, and have embedded the accompanying videos.

1) The Life Lesson: One person can completely change another person's life:

A. The Do Now Assignment: Watch the following video and answer the following questions: If you could choose and had to choose, would you rather be remembered the way this father is remembered or would you rather be remembered for being rich, famous, and powerful? Why?

B. The Object Lesson: The following video:

The Follow Up: Ask students to share their answers. Make sure they understand the power of sacrifice. There is great strength in loving and sacrificing. Amazing things can happen when one person sacrifices for another.

2) The Life Lesson: It's better to build someone up than to tear someone down:

A. The Do Now Assignment: Watch the following video and write a reflection on why you think this video makes people happy.

B. The Object Lesson: The following video

C. The Follow Up: Ask students to share their answers. The reason this makes people happy is because it is natural for us to enjoy watching the underdog do well and be happy. Unfortunately, many people tend to find it easier to tear down others or to bring people down to their level instead of helping to build others up. What would it be like in a high school if EVERYONE treated EVERYONE else the way that those students treated Jason?

Do you see the value of these kinds of "To Do Now" video lessons? Would you consider the same format, begining with "A To Do Now," followed by the video, and finishing with The Follow-up? Think of ways in which you can use this structure within your subject area or teaching grade level.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rapping in the Students with Video and Collaborating Writing

The Free Technology for Teachers blog featured a story about a high school teaching using two resources to ignite reluctant learners.

The first, The Week in Rap, is an online video set to rap music that reviews in a few brief minutes major events of the week. For students who don't keep current of world events, this is an excellent means to introduce them to world events and to promote in-class discussions.

Take some time to view a recent The Week in Rap video. Remember the old days when we sent students to school editions of Time or Newsweek magazines to stimulate discussions of current events. Students using The Week in Rap get a glimpse into world events in a matter of minutes, but can also replay the video and read its text to facilitate further reflection.

The other tool, Etherpad, is an online synchronous writing environment conducive to a social constructivist approach to learning, as students use the tools to collaborate and create texts. The additions each writer, at his or her own computer, makes appear on the screen as one text forms. This tool has applicability for a range of learners. Try it out with a friend or colleague.
Let us know what you think of these free tools to use in the classroom.

To learn about the high school teacher who used these two tools with her students, check on the Free Technology for Teachers blog, the posting for Monday, February 15, 2010: Using Technology to Find Students.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Online Professional Development

I'm posting links to blogs, nings, and podcasts sponsored by the professional organizations in K-12 disciplines. Use the post a "Comment" feature to add to the list, and I will edit this Blog to include your addition. Also, post a "Comment" to let us know how professional blogs and nings contribute to your professionally development extend your repository of teaching ideas.

National Council of Teachers of English Blog
National Council of Teachers of English Ning
National Teachers of Science Association Podcasts
National Council of Teachers of Science Blog
National Council of Teachers of Social Studies Blog
National Council for Social Studies Ning

Also but not blogs or nings:
National Council of Teachers of Math (Middle School Resources)
National Council of Teachers of Math (High School Resources)
National Council of Teachers of Math (Illuminations)

Image from

Friday, February 12, 2010

Wi Fi School Buses

One school district has extended the school day by equipping a school bus with wi fi access and laptops. So far, the project is working well for this Arizona school district, where students have bus rides of over an hour each way. This same school system, which is outside of Tuscon, AZ, has also replaced textbooks with e-books. One spokesperson for the federal Dept. of Education has indicated the experiment is part of a wider effort to extend the school day. The company that manufactures the routers to equip school buses with the laptops already has contracts out with school systems in Florida, Missouri, and DC. Wonder how long it will be before the idea catches on in other places. To read more about this method for extending the school day, check this New York Times Article: Wi-Fi Turns Rowdy Bus Into Rolling Study Hall.

Photo credit & information : Joshua Lott for The New York Times
Jerod Reyes, left, and Dylan Powell use their bus's Wi-Fi to do homework on their way to school.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What's a Ning? Why Use One?

The Ning in Education site provides a good overview of using Nings in the educational setting. Browse around, and let us know what you find of value, and what your initial impressions are of using Nings for professional development purposes. Remember our Class Ning at Computers in the Classroom has a Forum devoted to discipline-specific Nings. I also suggest browsing around the Classroom 2.0 ning. Yes, at times, the array of resources online can make you dizzy, but they can also put at your fingertips valuable resources for teaching and contribute to your development as a self-reflective practitioner. Of course, you need not agree, but what are your impressions for now of Nings for professional development? If you find Nings you want to share with others, visit Class Ning at Computers in the Classroom and add a Forum or Blog about the Ning.

Parody of Classroom Technology Usage

Recently, students at The University of Denver produced a video parodying the integration of technology into the classroom. Yesterday's The Chronicle of Higher Education carried an article about the creation of this video and embedded the video into the article. Check out the article in Wired Campus: "Class Produces Parody of 'The Office' to Highlight Challenges of Teaching With Technology." Let us know what you think of the content of the parody, the remarks found in the article, and blog postings following the article.

I've embedded the video here in event that you want to view it before reading the article. Enjoy! Remember the video is a rendition of students' parodying teaching with technology. What solutions can you bring away from their parody? Why do you think the students invested time in making the video? Why would the prestigious, well-read The Chronicle of Higher Education include an article of this kind and the video parody? Why do you think a decision was made to not only report that students made the video, but to also post the video?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Black History Month Links

Here are some links for exploring sites related to Black History Month offered from NCTE. Let us know which sites you find particularly helpful. These sites should be useful beyond the month of February.
General Background Information
African American History Month, from The Library of Congress
Black History Month, from
Black History Month, from EDSITEment
Black History, from The History Channel
Culture and Change: Black History in America, from Scholastic (includes a video interview with Christopher Paul Curtis)
A Brief Chronology of African American Literature, from San Antonio College Lit Web
African American Poets, from Famous Poets and Poems
African American Women Writers of the 19th Century, from The Schomburg Center at the New York Public Library
African-American Women, from Duke University Library
Black History, from Academy of American Poets
Twenty-Eight Days Later, A Black History Month Celebration of Children's Literature, from The Brown Bookshelf (Check the archive links on the right for celebrations from 2008 & 2009 as well as a poster you can download and print)
Video Interviews with children's book authors and illustrators, from Reading Rockets (includes an interview with recent Caldecott Medal winner Jerry Pickney)
Historical and Nonfiction Texts
African-American Quotations, from InfoPlease
African-American Sheet Music, 1850-1920, from the Library of Congress
African American Cultural Heritage Tour, from the Smithsonian Institute
American Slave Narratives: An Online Anthology, from American Studies Hypertexts at the University of Virginia
The Church in the Southern Black Community, from Documenting the American South
Electronic Text Center: African American, from the University of Virginia (Note this site includes texts about African Americans as well as by African Americans, so you will need to help students choose wisely to avoid mistakes.)
In Those Days: African-American Life Near the Savannah River, from the National Park Service
North American Slave Narratives, from Documenting the American South
Notable Speeches and Letters by African Americans, from InfoPlease
Personal Histories
Experience War: Stories from the Veterans History Project, from the Library of Congress
Buffalo Soldiers: The 92nd in Italy
African Americans at War: Fighting Two Battles
Oral Histories, from the National Visionary Leadership Project, including histories from Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Sonia Sanchez, and Faith Ringgold
StoryCorps Griot, from National Museum of African American History and Culture
Blogs and More
Sharon Draper's Blog Read details on the author’s trip to Africa, and comments on her books Just Another Hero and Sassy.
Nikki Grimes Fan Page Check the Wall for responses from the author to comments posted by her fans.
Alice Walker’s Blog Find new poems, fiction in progress, and a tribute to Walker’s friend, historian Howard Zinn, who passed away last week.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Science Behind the Olympics

The upcoming Olympics presents an opportunity for engaging science lessons. Check out this page on Science NetLinks: The Science Behind the Olympics. While at the Science NetLinks, all check its Lesson Plan Ideas Matrix for plans arranged by grade level and subject area. There is also a Resource Index, which includes links related to the teaching of both math and science. If you explore the site, ScienceNetLinks, let us know what you think and what helpful information you find there for your teaching or general interest. Image from:

Saturday, February 6, 2010

2010 African-American Read-In

The annual International Reading Association (IRA) and National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) are once again sponsoring the Black History Month Read-In, and providing suggestions for activities to do throughout the month. Check out the events and activities. What are your thoughts on NCTE, IRA, and other educational organizations sponsoring suggested activities, lesson plans, and resources in honor of Black History Month? Let us know of other online resources for celebrating Black History Month that you have found. (Photo of Langston Hughes)

Social Media Trends Among Teens

A recent Pew study, "Social Media and Young Adults," reports on how young teens are using social media. The stats indicate a decline in blogging, suggesting this platform might be more acceptable for the school curriculum than in the past, as young teens come to see blogging as a serious medium, compared to the the social networking they do with friends on other platforms. As expected, Facebook and MySpace remain popular, and younger teens are not using Twitter as much as older teens. Check the Pew study for specifics, flipping through the parts of the study. Let us know what you think after reading the study and what the implications might be teachers as they consider social networking sites and Web 2.0 tools like blogs, wikis, nings, and other collaborative tools, for use with students as part of the school curriculum.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Decline in Grammar Skills

Do you believe that there has been a decline in students' grammar skills over the last 20 or so years? One study conducted by University of Ontario researchers documents a signigificant decline and suggests that texting, social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook) and the neglect of teaching grammar are the culprits. To read about the study, access this Digital Directions article, "Twitter, Texting Blamed for Students' Bad Grammar." By the way, speaking of grammar, visit this podcast site, Grammar Girls. Did you know about the site? Do you think it can help teach grammar skills?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Obama's Fireside Chat

Today, at 1:45 p.m., President Obama will go live on YouTube to answer questions from the public. The chat, broadcast from the White House, will be a webcast. YouTube users have submitted questions and voted on their top picks. Questions concern jobs, education, and government reform. With Obama seeking major changes to the No Child Left Behind law, the webcast promises to address pressing educational issues. To read more about the YouTube event and keep current on proposals to NCLB, check these two articles from today’s The New York Times:

Obama to Field Questions Posted by YouTube Users
Obama to Seek Sweeping Changes in ‘No Child’ Law

Here is the video of Obama's State of Union Address from last week. You will find other Obama speeches also at YouTube. How is online access changing how news is delivered to the public? What are your thoughts on access to new events on YouTube, as well as the fact that many school systems block access to YouTube videos? If you watch the YouTube public press conference today, let us know what you think of the format.

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