Saturday, May 29, 2010

Greyson Chance Singing Broken Hearts

What if this talented child were in your class? Do you think he should be attending school or starting in on his musical career full-time? He was originally discovered by the general public on YouTube, and now is a famous musical star with television appearances and over 2 million viewer fans on YouTube. How are social media sites, like YouTube, one of the most popular, defining culture? Do you think this YouTube should be shown in public school classrooms?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Teaching History

Here is a powerful way to teach history. Let us know of some lesson plan ideas you get after watching the video.

Declaration of Independence

For those of you who have not seen this video of history in action, thought I would share it. What ideas does it bring to mind for teaching?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Lesson Plans

Two sites with lesson plans including ones that use computer software and websites:

The Educator’s Reference Desk offers lesson plans by discipline. Lesson plans use a variety of instructional materials, including websites and software programs. provides a variety of lesson plans in different disciplines. Plans can be found by discipline or grade level. Plans are also featured by month.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pronto Videos enables you to make a quick video by using your own pictures and by adding music from the site or your own sound files. Once you import the pictures, you then import the music. After both the pictures and music are inserted, you hit a button to complete the process, and the site blends the images and music into a movie. One drawback to the site is that to make full use of it, you need to pay a fee, and as you work yourself through your first free movie, the site reminds you of the upgrade. The free version allows for producing only a 30-second movie. Take a look at the site, and let us know what you think. I did a quick video with the site, and had mixed reactions to the final product. Have any of you used the site, or know of anyone who does? If so, what have you heard?

Here is the link to the movie that I created in a few minutes: Trial
Use this clickable link to access a blog posting on Discovery Education from an Animoto user who enjoyed using the site:

Image is from the Discovery Ed. blog.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Go Animate

GoAnimate is a site where teachers, students, and others can create quick animated videos. Here is an example of a 45-second animation focused on teens. Check out the site GoAnimate, and take some time to view other animations. Let us know what you see as the potential for this site in the school setting. School News for Teens! FREE TV Show Opening! by gwyneth

Like it? Create your own at It's free and fun!

School Filtering Programs

I found this slide show, Strategies for Fighting Internet Filtering on tips for how to address the issue of schools blocking specific Internet sites. For those teaching K-12, blocking sites creates problems when we know specific sites sponsor information that would be of value to our students. The slide show offers some suggestions of how to address the issue and ways in which teachers can teach responsible use of online sources. If you prefer you can view the presentation here instead of clicking on the link Strategies for Fighting Internet Filtering to view the presentation at the slideshare website.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

School-Issued Smartphones

Although many schools ban the use of cell phones, this policy is beginning to be revisited. Here is one article that speaks to the merits, Solving Algebra Problems on Smarthpones. In fact, in the North Carolina school featured in the story, students are issued smartphones by the school. They are used by students to assist them in solving algebra problems both in the classroom and at home, while doing homework. In addition to several applications for which the phones are used, the students have access to a class blog, where they can pose questions when they need assistance with solving problems at home. The teacher or peers can respond. To learn more about this use of smartphones to assist students with their algebra skills, refer to the Education Week article, Solving Algebra Problems on Smarthpones. Do you think it is about time that more schools lifted bans on smartphone use during school hours? What about the idea of the schools being the ones to issue the phones? The article documents several advantages of issuing school-sponsored smartphones and using them both in and out the school. Let us know what you think after you read the article.

In addition, the article contains this video, which you might want to watch for additional information and for student and teacher testimonials of the value of the K-Nect Project, the program that brought the phones to the schools.

Photo is from the article at and is captioned as such: "Using her school-issued smartphone, Katie Denton, a junior at Dixon High School in Holly Ridge, N.C., reads the biographic profile of a student from another school that is also participating in a Project K-Nect math class.—Sara D. Davis for Education Week" (URL:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Failing Grades for Attracting Women and Minorities into STEM

Several new reports just released show the trend to attract women and minorities into the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (often designated by the acronym STEM) remains dismal. Here are links to read more about two recently released reports.

Why So Few? AAUW Report

There's a lot to chew over in these two articles. Take some time to read them and to check some of the links to other resources contained within the articles. As educators, we need to be concerned about stereotypes we create and how our attitudes influence the students in our classrooms. What can we do to serve as strong role models to encourage students to pursue interests and eventual careers in the fields represented by STEM, areas in which more and more professionals will be needed in the future to sustain our growth as a world leader? What is our responsibility to encourage students in general to pursue careers in these fields and to start preparing them for such futures in grades as early as the elementary school?

President Obama has already proposed several steps to support STEM. (See "Obama Unveils Plan to Bolster STEM," Jan. 2010.)

So much of the future of our country rests in nurturing young people's interests in the STEM fields. What is your response to the recent reports about our failings as educators to support and nurture young people's interests in the STEM areas? Are the solutions offered in the articles and the related reports feasible? What do you see as solutions?

photo credit: cover from report obtained at

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Teacher Suspended for Facebook Post

An East Stroudsbury University professor was suspended for a comment she put on Facebook. She claimed she was kidding when she said she had a bad day and wanted to kill some students. The school officials took her comments seriously, and suspended her when a student brought the matter to the attention of the administration. Some say the suspension was a violation of free speech while others claim all threats of this kind even if made in jest should be taken seriously. Read more about the case in Higher Ed Morning, Facebook: Teacher Suspended for Posts, and check some of the comments posted.

In another case, a middle school teacher was suspended for some comments she wrote about one of her students on Facebook. Read of that story, Apex Teacher Suspended. Stories of both students and teachers being suspended for Facebook comments are increasing.

How do you feel about the emerging cases of retribution when a member of a school, be it a student or teacher, faces suspension for postings put on Facebook or other social networking venues? Should comments posted on these sites be taken seriously? Need teachers exercise caution? What about comments students post on Facebook, or other public social networking sites, about teachers, school administrators, and other students? As a teacher, what would you do if a student brought to your attention a comment written about her or him by another student that could be interpreted to be mean spirited or threatening? What about the teacher from East Stroudsbury U.? Do you think she should have been suspended? What about the middle school teacher who called her student "Bible boy"?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Videos Feature Winning Digital Natives

See some wonderful digital media projects created by students, some as young as 8 and 13, and read their profiles to learn more about who they are. Youth Portraits at Eutopia features the stories of students showcased in the Digital Generation Project. This project is intended to help educators and parents understand how students are using digital media. Spend time reading the students' profiles and seeing their digital work. Afterwards, return to this blog and post your comments about the project. Which students' work did you find impressive? What have you discovered by viewing the students' profiles and work? Note what the students have to say about their education and how digital media has motivated them as students and learners. If you have some extra time, explore the Digital Generation: Educators section for specific teaching ideas. Let us know what you fnd of particular of interest to you.
What about teacher tenure? What about merit pay? Should tenure or the alternate option of merit pay to replace tenure be tied to test scores? As the national debate unwinds about these controversial issues, we as educators need to stay informed.

When a post was made to the English Companion Ning, the posting generated a volumnious number of replies. The title of the blog, If We Can Put a Man on the Moon, We Can Certainly Measure Teacher Effectiveness, is controversial enough, and already 15 pages of comments have been left. By the time you check, more pages of comments are likely to have been added.

The English Companion Ning is read by over 12,000 English teachers, and surely other professional education nings and blogs are already generating a plethora of commentary on the topic of measuring teacher effectiveness. Just check the If We Can Put a Man on the Moon... and the comments posted to get a feel of some of the response in one community of educators.

This ning, The English Companion, is one of the most popular in the K-12 setting and is read by more than just English and language arts teachers. The discussion on the ning was started by Alan Sitomer, a former California teacher of the year and an author of young adult literature.

By the way, those interested in the teaching of literature and language arts skills, should check out the English Companion Ning regularly; it is a storehouse of information, and why not also join the ning to become part of the conversation.

In the meantime, post your comments on this blog regarding the discussion that has evolved based on Sitomer's blog and the whole controversy of a method to measure teacher effectiveness. Can it be done? Is tenure the answer? Is merit pay a better answer? What about using test scores to measure teacher effectiveness? If not test scores, then what else? Check out the discussion at, If We Can Put a Man on the Moon..., as well as Sitomer's What I Believe Measuring Teacher Effectivess is About. He has posted on the main English Companion Ning as well as within his own Page on the English Companion Ning; thus, you will see two forms of commentary in each place.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Top NCLB Advocate Reverses Position: Hot News and More to Follow

Yes, it has hit the press that Diane Ravitch, one of the chief engineers of the NCLB, has changed her mind after all these years. I will be posting more information, but in case you missed this big news story, click on the title of this post to get to the NPR coverage. Since the story will be all over the news, post links in your comments to other helpful media you find. Here is a quick ink to the story from the New York Times.
Photo, courtesy of Basic Books as taken from the NPR cover story.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Adding Audio Track in PowerPoint 2007

This video guides you through the process of adding an audio track (music) to your PowerPoint created in version 2007. Let us know if the video is helpful to you.

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.