Sunday, May 16, 2010

10 Blogs You Gotta Know

Last week, I was presented with a blog award from Kelly Tenkely, who writes the iLearn Technology blog. Her blog is always packed with great ideas, especially for the elementary classroom. Kelly is a prolific commenter, and beloved member of the ed tech blogosphere. This award is meant to honor blogs that we personally hold in high regard by spreading the word about them and sharing them with others. Here's my list of top ten blogs: By sharing these great blogs with you, I hope to spread the word and encourage them to keep up the great work.
 The rules of the award are as follows:
1- Copy and display the picture of the award given to you;
2- Link back to the blog that nominated you;
3- Nominate 10 different blogs yourself;
4- Inform the people you nominated, so they can in turn, continue the chain and spread the word about other great blogs out there.
Here is my top ten, in no particular order: Kelly Walsh's blog EmergingEdTech provides information, insight, and opinion about topics relating to engaging students and enhancing learning outcomes with Internet and instructional technologies. Kelly researches a breadth of topics and shares his findings so you don't have to! Tony Vincent began integrating Palm handhelds in his classroom "back in the day" and as handheld computing has evolved, so has Tony. He specializes in the integration of iPods, iPod touch, iPhone, iPad, and notebooks. His blogLearning in Hand offers great tips for putting learning in the hands of students. Among other tech-related topics, Dan Schmidt's blog helps teachers and students get started in podcasting in the classroom. He has authored two books on the subject, and his blog posts date back to 2005. Educational Origami is a blog, and a wiki, about the integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) into the classroom. One of my favorite things about it is the way this blog explains Bloom's Taxonomy and its evolution into Bloom's Digital Taxonomy. Christopher Dawson is one of the first bloggers I discovered when I began looking at becoming a blogger myself. His strong opinions, relevant and vast array of ed tech topics, sprinkled with a little snarky sarcasm make his blog one of my must-reads. The Innovative Educator is a blog maintained by Lisa Nielsen. She shares ideas about educating in an innovative way; and sometimes, that goes against popular trends: like, instead of jumping on the interactive white board (IWB) bandwagon, Lisa challenges educators to consider all options, including lower cost ways to accomplish the same results. Certainly no newbie to accolades from techie teachers, I'd also like to thank Mr. Byrne's Free Technology for Teachers blog where he tirelessly posts free resources, ideas, and lesson plans for teaching with technology. One of the latest blogs I've discovered, Quisivity is a blog for and about learners, designers, and teachers. Each one of Gerald Aungst's posts are insightful and thought provoking. Particularly relevant to me was his insights on student blogging: particularly getting kids to take time to read a great deal about what they want to learn before they write about it. Another recent discovery of mine, and a valuable resource, is Nicholas Provenzano's blog The Nerdy Teacher. Nicholas loves to write about tech integration posts and 80's and 90's TV and movies. I learn tons from his detailed posts, whether its an app review or useful website. Dr. Jon Becker's blog always makes me think (and rethink) my opinions about ed tech and the whole Web 2.0 conversation. His blog, Educational Insanity, is thought provoking- and although you may not agree with everything Dr. Becker asserts, I can promise it will challenge how you think about educational technology.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

AEP Video Competition: "Not So Fast"

The Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) has launched a Teacher Video Challenge that gives educators a unique opportunity-- Educational publishers want to hear what challenges teachers experience with regards to digital content in the classroom. Not only do educators get to make their voices heard by publishers; the organization is awarding the 20 top videos a Flip video camera and they'll also show the top videos at their annual convention of publishers. Nothing gets the gears of my brain turning like a good video competition; so true to form, I submitted a video, which I've posted here.
If you are reading this on a Kindle, and don't have the luxury of watching on your device, I've typed the transcript of the "interview" portion of my video below. The video clip opens with me, standing in front of a white board, looking confident-- until a "snarky" voiceover (also me) asks the teacher (me) if he's ready for school to start. I smile, and nod, until he says-- not so fast. He then "informs" me that this year, it's going to be different. I have to seamlessly integrate a ton of new technology with a mountain of district-adopted curriculum. You'll have to view the clip to get the full effect. 
The three questions publishers want to know are:
What are you most in need of in order to teach effectively in the digital age?
My response: In order to teach effectively in a digital age, I need digital content that will help me pull together my state standards, my district-adopted curriculum and textbooks, along with the best tech tools that I have in my digital tool box. And I need those three pieces to work together in a seamless way, so it feels effortless when I'm teaching. 
What one request would you make of those who create instructional materials to make them digital-classroom friendly?
My response: To me, a "digital-friendly lesson" is really nothing more than an organized approach that uses all the best of technology. For example, it's going to follow a four pronged approach:
1) You're going to have your standards stated right at the beginning- so that the student knows what's coming.
2) The lesson is going to open with an engaging opener. It could be just a question that you poll the audience with with responders, or it could be a video clip that gets the kids thinking.
3) The body of your lesson is going to provide an opportunity for the teacher to provide direct instruction while at the same time allowing students to get up to the board, to click a button, to move some text around, but it's really back-and-forth and engaging.
4) Then, the final piece would be a "check for understanding" with maybe four or five questions that a teacher can either choose to use anonymously with the responders, or, do a formative assessment where they actually record the students' results- and it goes in the gradebook. 
How would better digital technology and content in the classroom help you and your students?
My response: If there was better digital content in the classroom, I think students would be way more engaged. And if you have engaged students, then their achievement is just going to go up, too. So, better digital content means higher student achievement, and that's what every school district wants.