Posts Tagged ‘ripplingpond’

Inspired Classroom – Inspiration and Persperation

January 3, 2010

inspired classroom logoThe Inspired Classroom is now part of an experiment for a handful of teachers in my elementary school. Thanks to our innovative principal, Matt Rogers, our focus will be to provide greater and more timely access to web based tools, data and opportunities for interaction, for our students. The model, pioneered back in ’06 by Darren Wilson from Texas, is being used in pockets around the country and perhaps elsewhere but it is largely an underground movement. It’s partly an issue of branding, lack of central leadership and the use of private classroom wikis or LMSs creating sealed pockets of experiences.

The set up involves creating a 4-5:1 ratio of computers to students in your classroom and making the computer a part of individual PBLs. In other words, each group of 4 students has a computer sitting at one end of their cluster of desks or table. Lessons follow the typical, direct instruction (mini-lesson) a guided practice (demonstration) and then the students perform a group task independently using the computer as a resource for data, place to post reflections etc… depending on the project requirements. The teacher facilitates the activity and the class reconvenes to share their experiences. Students in each of the project learning teams have individual roles and responsibilities. I have established 4 distinct roles: chooser, recorder, driver and manager. These roles change daily giving each student a new responsibility to look forward to and a new job to learn each day. So far I have only implemented one project and although it was a big hit among students I was baffled as to how I might build in a better mechanism to track/assess the group progress.

I have loads of great ideas, some borrowed and some blooming in the poppy fields of my own imagination. The trouble is, how can I help students record their experiences effectively and use the process as a KWl, a study guide creator, and so on? I am investigating blended learning approaches and virtual school curriculum for clues. Stay tuned for my observations, student and parent reactions and feel free to give your feedback, suggestions or links that might help my students succeed on this new path.


Sprout, the Growth of Ideas, Ideals and Children

April 18, 2008

There is a very interesting new tool on the scene, Sprout! It has some wonderful built in Flash. I discovered it by way of Chip-In. Sprout has a Chip-In feature. In efort to raise awareness and support for the SpringsAlive Community in Uganda I decided to use Sprout to build an Advocacy Widget.  You can see the embed on the Springs Alive blog.  For some reason I haven’t been able to get the code to work here but is posts smoothly to blogger.  See for your self.

new small voices vodcast on podomatic

April 14, 2008

I just completed editing and posting episode 31 of small voices.  This is my third annual play based on a piece of childrens’ literature.  A friend and coworker of mine, Heidi Holcomb, soon to be EdS in EdTech loaned me a containing examples of literature illustrating the butterfly effect.  I wondered how readily my students would make the connection between the cats in our story and the safety of the island. They listened intently to the tale.  I told the initially to listen carefully to see if they could solve the problem on the island. They each wanted to be the one to find the answer! Stories can be excellent teachers when students assume a role/purpose within the context of the a book.

My role was to ask questions and to help the students take ownership of the play. I call it a play but in reality it would take months to be able to produce this kind of thing sequentially and before an audience. Videotaping is the answer.  It enables the teacher to reduce each the play to scenes or even parts when filming. With 18 enthusiastic kindergarteners, the rule is divide and conquer!  Parental help is key as is a mind reading assistant.  I had both!  See for yourself. The editing is so so but I think you’ll agree, the movie is a living lesson for these children.

I found this lesson plan today based on the book I used.  Some of you may find this helpful in creating your own plans.

Listening to a New Voice, Springs Alive Uganda!

March 30, 2008

It is with great pleasure I announce the new blog, Springs Alive Uganda. As many of you know I have posted several times about my friend Martin Sebuliba and his vision for peace, wellness and education for the disenfranchised children of Uganda. Martin has limited access to theSprings Alive Students internet due to the high fees charged at internet cafes and the lack of electricity and no internet signal in his rural village. I offered to set up a blogger account for him so that he and members of his community could type off-line and then simply make their posts quickly and inexpensively when convenient.

If you use the internet regularly as I do, then you will understand how time consuming it can be to try and figure out how things work, or even to do research online. By providing technical support I can be an advocate for Springs Alive and I am blessed to be able to help. Martin is working on creating a logo representative of his community and their goals which begin with the children and feed into a larger picture of a healthy, self sustaining community in the future. They will need lots of support to make this dream a reality. Track their successes and struggles by listing the Springs Alive Uganda blog on your blog roll or by subscribing to the feed. Your comments and questions will be welcomed. You will witness firsthand the hopes and dreams emanating from a small village in Africa. Tell everyone you know, you are listening a new voice!

YOU are your child’s best teacher.

March 9, 2008
  Question posted in recent forum I frequent:

Child Reading SaundraG flickrI heard that up until about 20 years ago, you could buy from the Broerderbond in South Africa a child development pack for the first 6 years of you’re child’s life so that they can read, write a bit, etc… by the time they go to school (as well as exposing other parts of the brain to development).

Does anyone know if there is anything good around like that today? I suppose there may be more than one company competing with that sort of thing. Does anyone know who the market leader is?

My response:

Do you really think sitting your child in front of a computer is the best way to go? I teach kindergarten and my experience has been that children gravitate to reading and writing when they are developmentally ready. This happens between 4-7 years of age. My own children love to read. (They are older teens.) I attribute this in part to my good friend Pam who insisted I start reading to my kids from the day they were born. I took her advice and my children began to associate reading and listening with the pleasure of bonding with their parents and caregivers.

I read to my children until they were 12 and they no longer had time. We all missed the togetherness. Visits to the library and bookstore were frequent. Gifts of books were common and interest in books praised. And yes, they also read independently! The read aloud experience is invaluable. If there had been when my children were small I would have exposed them to it, but never require them to do it.

My kindergarten students enjoy the program and the students who entered as readers tell me they learned to read from which is a free phonics based reading program. I also know from meeting their parents that education is an intrinsic family value and they have exposed their children to countless classics in children’s literature. I can guarantee for FREE that if you take the time to read to your child and elicit their responses to reading by asking them to predict, identify common words and engage them in the illustrations they will love to read and learn to read more easily and more naturally from intrinsic motivation.

You are your child’s best teacher. aunty raffi by kim hotep flickrModel enthusiasm for reading and the power of the written word. Don’t completely outsource this very important role in the early years. By the way, I am very high tech in the classroom and do lots of great things with my students using technology to extend literacy skills so I am not opposed to a little software extension or intervention.

Small Voices Has Small Simeon Friend

March 7, 2008
Yesterday I received a brief missive from my small Simeon friend HiMonkey to my podcast site small voices. The little terry cloth critter commented on one of the cooking podcasts I helped my students produce in the Fall. One my student-groups used his Panda Cupcake recipe.  Since then HiMonkey has sent a stream of his fans to savour the fruits of his influence. My students were delighted with his recipes and the humor found on his site. Thanks HiMonkey for alerting me to several new unsavory comments that were spammed to my podcasts. I have removed commenting but people may still email me via podomatic. It’s nice to know that small voices has a small friend looking out for them!
clipped from
5. i believe that sharing snacks and laughter is the key to world peace.
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le singe est devant les flures.
  blog it

Why Tuesday Night is My Favorite

November 7, 2007

You may be saying to yourself, I know why, Lincoln Heights, Biggest Loser or Beauty and the Geek! As far as I’m concerned, those shows have nothing on Cathy Evanoff’s Making Connections or WOW2.0’s Women of the Web. I get such a rush from the fast-paced drama, excitement, back channeling and scintillating technological tidbits that I just can’t wait for Tuesday night. I know at first it is hard to conceive of a live interactive webcast involving some 60 people in the chat and 5-sometimes 8 in the live streamed conference but it beats asynchronous TV any day.

Last night was particularly exhilarating. First Cathy E. an award winning edtech educator hosted an innovative experimental show featuring uStreamTV. Jeff Lebow, Webcast Academy founder, his bio which I snagged from the TESOL conference site:

Jeff Lebow

external image jeff4.gifJeff Lebow’s educational career has included teaching 3rd grade in New Mexico, ESL in Thailand & Korea, and Computer Assisted Language Learning in New Hampshire. He founded Worldbridges in 1998 and has been experimenting with live, interactive webcasting and collaborative community building ever since. Worldbridges met the Webheads during EdTechTalk#1 in 2005, and the EVO2007 Webcast Academy session was only the latest in a series of webcasting adventures that have resulted.

During our meeting Jeff was able to host at least 5 streams simultaneously and feed them into the edtechtalk page in a single embedded window. He is quite simply a magician. Cathy E is very technologically adventurous and infuses her audience with confidence. In new age jargon I felt like my being was vibrating on a higher plane after the show.

An hour later and somewhat subdued and philosophical I joined the Women of Web 2.0 group who include: Sharon Peters, Jen Wagner, Cheryl Oakes and Vicki Davis. The special guest was Melinda Miller – The Podcasting Principal. Upwards of 50 people, fingers flying in the chat room while the talk begins. Melinda is redefining what it means to be a principal by modeling a feet first approach to experimenting with new forms of communication to enhance community. She is full of surprises. For example, she made a very personal announcement via her Meez character which is embedded in her blog page for her staff. By changing the background of her avatar she provided a clue to baby news. Can you imagine a leader so dynamic and spirited? Well actually, my own principal could give her competition when it comes to the element of surprise. I think random acts of kindness started with him because they come so naturally. But back to Melinda and the WOW ladies. The banter over their Skype conference call is witty and personal. I’d liken it to the view only without the political barbs. It’s kinder and gentler but manages to pack the hour with more content than you imagined a brain could hold. Fact is, you can’t hold it all so you have your tabbed browser set up and your delicious tool bar to capture any of the amazing links they mention.

So when people ask me how I know so much about technology. I tell them it’s all how you spend your Tuesday nights! Catch me in the next Tuesday chat with Cathy Evanoff or WOW2.0, I’m sendkathy.

Reflecting on the Need for Teacher Education

November 6, 2007

This is not a sappy soliloquy or surreptitious sermonizing on the merits of the teaching profession. Nor is it an indictment of the standards or programs designed to groom and prepare new teachers. This is just me reflecting on the path I chose to become a teacher. It should be called the long and winding road, because it brings me back to my mother’s sage advice, “you should become a teacher.” How many of us heed the wisdom of those who know us best?

After college I followed my desire to travel and became part of the business world. I traveled, trained people on new technology, sold property management systems in the UK and provided account support for the bulky computer systems we had back in the 80’s. I have always loved innovation. In the 90’s determined to keep my skills sharp and my knowledge fresh I attended Parson School of Art & Design in NYC. It was a cert only program but after 10 courses and fantastic, working-in-the-field instructors, I was very high on creating Flash sites for businesses in my local community and doing several newsletters and logos for non profits. At the same time I was an inside sales rep proffering motherboards and volunteering in the local elementary school. Two friends and I started the after school newspaper program using a basic desktop publishing. I continued it for 3 years. It was through my experience teaching these students various aspects of journalism that I became interested in teaching as a profession. I loved to see student growth and I enjoyed using creative ways to engage and challenge students to succeed.

The 2000’s came along and I moved to Atlanta with my family. I became a technology assistant in a local elementary school. I had a business degree but the school required teachers to be licensed educators. I felt like a teacher, I taught classes in the lab, I created lesson plans to integrate technology and I wondered when someone would realize that they should just make me an honorary teacher. After all, with 20 years of life experience, a college degree and a teacher’s ability to communicate why shouldn’t they just make me a teacher. I had more technology experience than most teachers ever would. It was humbling to realize that all my experience counted for nothing in the eyes of the State of GA. The same would apply anywhere else in the country and most parts of the world. Teaching is a profession and like doctoring, lawyering and psychoanalyzing requires a professional license.

No, what I needed to do was to go back to school and earn my credentials. I am nearing the end of this process and I have one profound reflection to share… you must become a student in order to become a teacher. Not profound you say? Well for me I realized that all of the books, articles and lectures I heard could be listened to or read by just about anyone who wants to shell out the money to buy expensive text books or search online. The real learning occurs through the constant evaluation/collaboration between peers and professors and in the reflection process. So for all of you who know in your heart you can teach I urge you to go the extra mile. Get your teaching certificate. The kids NEED you! The stakes are higher now than ever. No Child Left Behind insists on highly qualified teachers. I wish there had been some kind of short cut. I wish there had been some honorary degree, but the truth is I worked hard and now I have earned the real thing. We require students to jump through hoops to perform, why not us? If you have your undergraduate degree it will only take you about 2 years to complete and it is time well spent. It flies by. In fact, I may even take my education to the next level. Let’s see if I take a semester off and start next fall…I could have my PhD by… 2011?

“If you can email you can weebly!”

October 28, 2007

I really admire Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. She is one of the primary female authorities on edtech heard around the world. I also appreciate the way she let’s me know each time she posts on the Tech Learning blog. I know, it’s in my RSS feeds but so are many others, too many to read. Her current post is entitled, School Wide Communities of Practice. Below are my comments. Please read her post for the real meat and potatoes.

This line in Sheryl’s post caught my attention, “The platform should be very intuitive and require a minimal learning curve.” I think the real answer can be found in simplicity. I have observed the agony experienced by teachers who, like fish out of water attempted to create their own FrontPage websites only to forget what they learned and never touch them again. That was three years ago. Times have changed, thank goodness and last week I was facilitating a weebly workshop during a PD session. The vibe in the room was one of triumph. I heard more than one teacher say, “I think I can really do this!” My in-house slogan is, “If you can email you can weebly!” I emailed every teacher in my school to get the word out. Out of 50 teachers 5 took the initiative and responded by creating and sending me their website links. 18 more came to the PD training. I heard them say, “This is easy, anyone can do this.” That is what we need to hear. We need uncomplicated solutions.

Technology has to become even easier and more purposeful before people can readily adopt it. Everyone uses a cell phone, email and Google. People have strong intrinsic motivation to do so both at home and at work. Until a solution exists that truly blends with the role of administrators/teachers and supports their function as ubiquitously as email or cell phones, I can’t envision a change in behavior or professional practice. Consider the technology that actually make our lives more complicated.

I am currently enjoying the book, Made to Stick. One of their axioms claims people tend to forget what it was like NOT to know. Personally I love Sheryl’s vision for CoPs. It’s brilliant. But I am in the know. I just think that something simple and weebly-like will be the ultimate catalyst for change. When it happens, our coworkers will look at us and wonder why we were churning butter by hand for so long.

Your Number One Goal – Eliminate Boredom

October 24, 2007

The words of Marc Prensky are still finding spaces and places inside my brain. He issues his commands not as a dictator but as a benevolent leader in the world of educational technology. If the name doesn’t trigger any Pavlovian responses then maybe the term ‘digital native’ will. His 2001 book, Digital Game-Based Learning was a global hit. Prensky espouses a metaphor based learning experience. His background uniquely equips him to install the metaphor in a gaming platform to create goal oriented, self-directed educational programs. How can teachers apply this metaphor in the classroom to achieve increased motivation and self directed learning? It is one thing to create an alternative game-world and another to live in the harsh light of the classroom.

“What do we NOT have to teach?” ..get rid of multiplication tables, he insisted. Kids should be engaged in productivity and not relentless repetition. (my interpretation) Hmm, and … Prensky used an analogy and his ppt slide to illustrate the paradigm shift in culture between the under 2o somethings and the rest of us. A dimly lit slide with few words appeared. That’s us, he noted and went on to explain that we lived in the dark and went to school for enlightenment. Now, according to Prensky, kids live in the light and come to school only to become powered down dim shadows of themselves. “They are NOT little us’s.” My own analogy sees the de-teching-of-students process as a daily de-clawing. Some consider de-clawing inhumane while others agree that if the cat(student) is to remain indoors and never encounter any predators (real world problems) it’s simply practical and efficacious to de-claw. Is that any way for us to prepare our future leaders? Must we strip them of their resources and potential? I suppose the alternative is even scarier, even to me. So we create boredom?

Prensky believes we underestimate what kids can do. We need to understand their unique point of view as digital natives. They are a culture of people who value sharing, teaching each other and collaborating. In general, the older generations valued knowledge as power. Knowledge is no longer a commodity, or is it? If the younger generations have a different world view and they are engaged as digital citizens constructing networks, sharing knowledge and learning in spite of school, then what can school offer them? Eliminate boredom. Hmm…

You know why Prensky is truly a genius? It’s simple. He goes to the source. REsources, he says means more than one source. He asks kids at every opportunity to share their ideas with him. He values children. He cultivates them and respects them and he thinks this may be what’s missing in education. Have you asked your students to tell you what they’d like to learn? Have you given them the freedom to solve relevant problems? Have you invited them to share in classroom decisions regularly? How do you feel about surrendering control to the students? Do you think there is a way to harness the power of cell phones and ipods for education? What do you tell them when they get bored? Do you tell them learning isn’t always fun? Do you really believe that? Eliminate boredom. Hmm…

Can everyday really be filled with meaning, purpose, engagement, community, interactivity and learning?