Without a doubt, my favorite tech gadget this year has been the Pure Digital’s Flip Camera and the excitement just get better with their latest toy – MinoHD – High Definition Flip Camera. Watch the slick MinoHD trailer here.
Not only did I beg my administrators to give one to each teacher in my division, but I’m picking up two for my own kids. My three year old son learned the flip camera in ten seconds. It was insanely easy. His face lit up when he saw what he could do with it. It’s the #1 AV device to be signed out in our library, we can’t keep up with the demand.
The ease to record and save your videos on a PC or Mac computer will have teachers quickly saving conversations, reading circles, fun activities and assessments. Here are two quick examples of how it was used in our elementary division. A grade 2 science tech animation reflection and a grade 4 literature circle discussion recorded in three six minute videos with one sample here.
All the big media companies are covering a positive story on Pure Digital. The New York Times stated that Pure Digital was one of the fastest growing companies in Silicon Valley. I would take it step further to say, besides picking up a Flip Camera for your loved one, to also pick a 100 shares during this tough economic time because this gadget will be selling this holiday and I expect in the future as well. It has a future in the classroom and the playground.
Nutrition is a key study at any grade, but my current grade 3s are studying it in detail. I’ve always found BrainPopJr and BrainPop to be great clever and age-appropriate places to begin. Ask your teacher about your school account and password.
Food Pyramid – A good introduction to food and effects of excess sugar/fat in diet (Info on carbohydrates, fats and proteins)
Fats – find out why fats are important to your diet, in moderation (Info on fats)
Carbohydrates – compares various carbohydrates and how found in your diet (Info on carbohydrates)
Organic Food – discussion of what entails this popular eating trend
Nutrition – Proper balance discussed (Info on carbohydrates, fats, proteins and vitamins)
Pasteurization – What it is and why it’s important to the milk production process
Food Safety – Ways to avoid improper food
Fun Nutrition Games
Eating to Win – this game could be more strategy and graphically advanced features, but the messages left for the quality of eating are very informative. So be sure to slow down at the end of each sequence.
Blast off game – great at breaking down the sources for carbohydrates and fats.
Additional reading – five great age appropriate five articles from SIRS Discoverer:
- Pasta Patrol – great info for all ages on pasta
- Good Food is Brain feul
- Grandma’s marathon
- Fuel up for good health
- Ask Dr. about minerals, vitamins and other things
MyPyramid.gov has a wealth of information for the serving sizes for a wide range of ages. In fact, they offer a free food planner to track if students are getting the required amounts of each food group.
World Almanac for Kids 2008 (20 copies in library)
- page 93 – serving size
- page 94 – definitions & sample foods for fats, carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins
Zamzar is a website that can convert a huge number of image, audio and video formats – for free. I found it when I was asking how to save YouTube videos to share with students – just in case the Internet kicks out (which happens regularly in China) or if I need to have it as a backup for a presentation.
So, I used to visit Zamzar and upload all the information and Zamzar would inform me via email when I would be able to begin downloading the video. But, while I was researching this web tool, I discovered that it also has a toolbar button option for your browser that makes the downloading process even faster and less painful. Now, it will be more tedious than using a commercial or shareware converter, but you can spend your money on something else, like a Pro version of Flickr or Zamzar!
You are able to download/convert from some of the top video sites in the Internet on the fly…
Here is a nifty plant simulation for the effects of various colors of light on the development of a plant. Your first screen at www.iknowthat.com may require you to press ‘Maybe Later’ (it is worth registering, it’s a good collection of stuff). Then near the top, you’ll see a tab saying “Grow a Plant” – press that and have fun growing your plants in various colors and watching as the plants develop. Students may be surprised which color is the best. As mentioned in other simulation applications – it’s always best to have the students record their predictions first so when they modify them, they are cognitive of the thinking process.
Twitter, a microblogging tool, is perhaps my best tool for connecting to other educators around the world. I find several useful links daily with it. Plus, I’ve received help to questions I’ve posted (ie within five minutes someone I never interacted with, sent me a link to download blank geopolitical maps so I could help a grade 5 teacher). But, I didn’t always think highly of Twitter. Initially, I zeroed in on the fluff messages about ‘pouring some coffee’ and ‘I’m baking some cookies’. Plus, the actual name didn’t jive with me. But, with the help of Simon May, I could see some uses for developing my personal learning network (PLN).
I heard about Twitter Kharma at the Learning 2.008 conference. But, I was on information overload, so it took until now for me to try it out when I saw another twitterer tweeted about it. Here’s how I used it.
- I went to http://dossy.org/twitter/karma
- When I saw that I had to provide my Twitter ID and password, I re-opened my Twitter window and changed my password to something obscure for this exercise.
- After entering my twitter username and password, I waited a minute and saw something similar to this on the right —>
- I sorted by ‘following’ so I would only see the twitters who follow me and I do not follow their tweets.
- It’s sorted by last tweet, so I clicked on their avatars and determined if the person was worth following. I searched to see how informative their tweets were – did it mention lessons or current events I found interesting, did they have links to possible useful sites, did they have some useful things in their favorites section, did they avoid posting frivolous stuff (ie I’m off to buy a chocolate bar)
- If I was impressed, I clicked ‘follow’ and I proceeded to write them a message (remember they are already following me, so this is possible) stating I found them with Twitter Kharma and what I liked about their twitter presence. I’ve found writing simple messages great for developing a positive learning network.
- It took about an hour. After the process, I closed the window and changed my password back to its original one.
Twitter Kharma – worth the time in expanding your Twitter experience.
“What will be your legacy?” – that was the essential question Superintendent Dennis Larkin asked candidates for a lead technology position at our school. So being the reflective thinker that I am, I quietly processed this question and I think I’ve found my answer. My goal is to empower my staff by helping them develop and refine their personal learning networks (PLN). All applications and systems mentioned are free.
I originally had twelve steps listed, but following a discussion with Kim Cofino, I have shortened it to seven that can certainly be achieved. For the full twelve step article, please visit my school professional blog.
7 steps to empower yourself and develop your PLN:
- Create an iGoogle account – using your professional (work/school) email address
- While in iGoogle, create a Gmail account
- Before leaving iGoogle, create an iGoogle reader account which means you’ll bring information to you with RSS feeds. If in China, NetVibes is more stable and a better RSS aggregator to use.
- Subscribe to blogs by Educators with your RSS feed aggregator program – here are five worth following immediately: TwoCents (by David Warlick), Weblogg-ed (by Will Richardson), 21stCenturyLearning (by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach) IdeasandThoughts (by Dean Shareski) and AlwaysLearning (by Kim Cofino)
- Make reading blogs a habit (ie early in the morning, after the kids are asleep, during your lunch break, on your weekends, whenever)
- Start your own blog at your school or EduBlogs.
- Delve into a social networking site like Diigo or del.icio.us to connect with others who have similar interests and even set it up so when they update an area of study, you bookmarks are updated as well
Comments on getting inter-connected from Mark Wagner:
If you have a great lesson, a great project, or a great rubric, post it for others. Your unique experience in the specific context in which you work is valuable – and on a global scale it’s potential valuable to a great many others.
As a contributing member of a community of colleagues and friends, you and your questions are likely to be well received when you make requests. The best way to learn something new is to ask others who might know more about it. I often find my network of fellow learners to be the quickest way to receive an answer I need.
Without a doubt, one of the most talked about parts of the Early Childhood program has been its slick new Primary Playground for the 3-5 year olds at our Pudong campus. At least in my household, as I have two children who are in this age range at the school. So naturally, I gave the playground my ‘white glove parent’ look-over and was very pleased with what I found. Here are some things I admired and what other schools can focus on when they make their own early childhood playground purchase:
- Safe finger holds – multiple holes in a layer design means little ones have many places to hold on to. Further, the increments between the steps were marginal and the material used in the steps was this plastic composite that didn’t feel hot despite the sun beating on it. I was impressed with the many ways the designers used for climbing – offering a good variety.
- Super swings with small linking stainless steel chains that won’t rust. The rubber bottom looks to last a long time whether the users are swinging or standing on it. Further, the double lace into the seat will deter side swinging tricksters. Our international school made a good choice in having sand around the swings as well because places that have rubber it ‘rubs’ down into ruts, the sand can be replaced easily and is softer.
- Bouncing Bonanza – whether you have one, two or three on this bouncer, it’s fun. There are no strange foot traps either waiting to tear at an ankle when the bell goes. The black coils in the middle are flexible, yet firm and there is no chance of anyone losing a finger or toe; so additional friends could sit in the middle and cheer on the bouncing. The engineers did a good job laying a sponge on the ground for any spills – it is also resistant to liquids and you can’t beat the bright colors. Also, the wide berth given will mean kids can run around the bouncers as they are playing. Very nice.
- Rocketing Fun – this spaceship design had the kids screaming and the holes are large enough that even for children raised in unhealthy homes can make it through them. The black rubber edge on the bottom looks like it will last a long time and keeps body parts safe. The ladder was a true work of art having no parts that could hurt anyone – no rope burn as it has a heat resistant composite plastic cover and the rungs were sturdy. One could even bounce on the ladder although I’m sure this fun would be stopped soon. There were no screws to scratch heads at any point – I even got down and looked up where I’m sure some kids would like to hide – nothing. Once again – attention to design detail will mean hours of play for our young students.
- Comfortable hand grips that don’t look like they will fall off for a long time and appear able to withstand the effects of the weather and temperature.
Even with all the best design, kids are kids and so the teachers had lessons for our young ones on how to walk and use the playground (ie don’t walk in front of the swinging students, no jumping off the top of the rocket…)
A gem of a website for presentations is www.slideshare.net which is the largest collection for sharing slideshows, both by individuals and organizations. It’s a great place to store and share your slideshows quickly. And it’s free. Yet, the greatest eye opener for me was the opportunity to view thousands of other uploaded presentations, which are searchable by keywords and sorted with categories. I could find material that interested me professionally and personally.
Something to try early on is join a community or group that interests you. Begin with one, then later expand yourself. As a teacher who helps teachers integrate technology into their classroom teaching. I joined the group ‘web 2.0 tools for effecting teaching‘ which had (at the time I joined) 483 members who have uploaded 1069 slideshows. Plus, I immediately recognized a few worthy educators (ie Clarence Fisher aka glassbeed) whom I follow in my personal learning network. Great tutorial presentations on Blogging, Skype, Twitter and Google Apps offered great opportunities for learning for my staff and myself.
The site has a powerful search system. By pressing ‘Browse’, one can search by the latest slideshow of that day, the last week, month or all time. Further, you can find out which presentations were the most viewed, most embedded, most favorited, most downloaded or the featured slideshows. This can lead you to more groups or people sharing similar interests. The ‘Discover’ tab was another great discovery.
One of the best blog entries I have read was Jeff Utecht’s How to prepare yourself for technology interview questions at your next Job Fair. I think it’s his #1 viewed article, too.
But, the reciprocal question to ask is – What should schools be providing in their classrooms to ensure teachers can use modern technology well?
This is not a wish list. Obviously, someone has to pay for these resources, so I’m going focus on the most important components of technology to be included in the elementary classroom.
- LCD Projector
- Digital Camera (7+ MB)
- Access to a color printer – able to print variety of sizes
- Access to an AV device to play DVD/VCR material
- Reliable Access to the Internet
- Reliable Wireless connectivity – able to use a laptop
- Teacher laptop/desktop
- Two student laptop/desktops
The Next Level of Tech items in the Classroom:
Smartboard – some would say it’s a standard, but if it’s a bonus, how many more years until it’s a standard?
Document Camera (ie Elmo, AverMedia device) – allowing you to view student work as a class for mass editing)
Sound system – installed above ground to hook to laptop/desktop
Recording audio device – iRiver, iPod for podcasts
Student laptops – stored in a secured cart, students have immediate access to laptops
Now, what have I forgotten?
Am I over-stressing or under-emphasizing anything?
These thoughts followed a review of my school’s Technology Plan and one section identified supporting teachers with the right technological resources and I was wondering – What does that look like today? What do the technology leading schools have that we can all aspire?
The key message for the Learning 2.008 Conference will be literacy.
A dozen education bloggers queried conference keynote speakers (David Jakes, David Warlick and Clarence Fisher) on what would likely be the essential topic to discuss with our staff members when we returned to their schools. Students need to be independent thinkers. Literacy is fundamental and this is a message that all teachers can buy into because it’s not a new one. And it won’t be any different a decade from now. The focus should not be the slick web tools or sites. Instead, it is allowing opportunities for students to expose themselves to information, investigate it, employ it their lives, and express it in a compelling way. It is this final point, where many get caught in the ‘Wow’ factor of new tech toys. Further, students become digitally responsible by reviewing the ethics of computers in the world. It’s more than reading, writing and arithmetic. Ironically, the word computer was not mentioned once in our thirty minute dialogue. Now, remember, this is a technology conference!
In Lance Armstrong’s book ‘It’s not about the bike’, Lance shares how his life challenges and experiences empowered him to win the Tour de France seven times. All his competitors had the same ‘tool’ – a bike – and yet Lance was consistently more successful. The trick in education is to make our student learning authentic and meaningful.
As a teacher, we can show that we are lifelong learners by admitting that we don’t know all the answers and model daily how we synthesize information from the Internet in useful ways. As educators, we help the students form thought inspiring networks.
As professionals, educators should create their own personal learning networks – they should direct their professional development through reading blogs through RSS feed readers (such as Netvibes) or subscribing to tags (with sites such as del.ici.ous). Whether you dedicate a select number of minutes a day, listen to your stored podcasts in a taxi or have a heavy blog reading session on the weekend; keeping in regular contact with what others are doing successfully in education is the key. Taking it even further, is to then share your best learning with your immediate network of teachers.
David Warlick suggested a great meeting or class activity: ‘Think for a minute of the last thing you learned. Now share how you learned it with the person beside you.’ This reinforces that we are constantly learning and hopefully reaching globally for answers.
Finally, it’s important we take these small steps slowly and carefully.
Special thanks to all those who participated in this discussion as it was a meaningful one for me. If I misrepresented anyone’s thoughts, please correct me in the comments section. My apologies in advance for omitting some great comments I missed.Also if my links don’t work out – I had to rush out to go swimming with the kids. :S