Step back and focus with Instructional Rounds

What you are about to read is nothing new, nor is it innovative. But, it is common sense and I find myself continually in conversations that discuss mandated professional learning as well the intrinsic motivation for faculty to seek out professional learning that supports their profession and the career path they chose. I am, as well as the education profession, is out of medical analogies to compare this to. The simple fact is why does this continually surface in a profession based on growth mindset, lifelong learning, and preparing young minds for an unpredictable future?

Continue reading “Step back and focus with Instructional Rounds”

My edcamp


I was the first camper through the door. I entered to cheers and raised arms by the wonderful edcamp team. My initial thought, “I’m never early. I’m always late and hardly ever on time.” I met everyone – some for the second or third time – and received the inaugural t-shirt from Hadley Ferguson (@hadleyjf). I was set.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from an “unconference”. It was my first time attending one and I was anxious to experience the forum. I decided to sign up and lead a session. I had something in mind that I had been discussing with Mary Beth (@mbteach) for some time. I never led a session, but felt that I really wanted to start a conversation. Recently, I had been hired as the Instructional Technology Specialist (ITS) at the Boys’ Latin Charter School of Philadelphia. I proposed the idea for this position in October of 2009 and had seen the proposal all the way through to my new position. Now I am stuck. I’m not clueless, but I want to do this job well. I am the pilot of this position. No one came before me. There is no precedent.

What does an Instructional Technology Specialist look like? This is what I called my session. I fixed my index card to the bright, yellow board and worked my way into the main conference room. I met with a few old friends and some new ones at a round table. I met up with Yoon (@doremigirl), Rich (@rkiker), and David (@DrTimony) for some coffee and discussion. Rich and I traded small talk and soon found out he had my position for three years. He offered to co-present and I gladly accepted. Our session would RULE! We began tweeting our session around edcamp and offered door prizes. But before we get to the door prizes, let me reflect on my first two sessions at edcamp.

The first session I attended featured Joyce V. (@joycevalenza) and David J. (@djakes) I worked with Joyce at Springfield Township and she turned me on to many new trends in education. One of our first assignments together was visualizing vocabulary. Students took pictures of their vocab words, uploaded them to flickr, and suddenly senior vocabulary was cool again. Joyce and David led a session on “The Future of Student Research”. This session was not only informative, but presented many great questions and hurdles that we all face in conducting student research in schools, restricting access being the most common.

More and more, IT and Administrators are filtering the internet and restricting access to what students can see while on the school’s server. I still don’t understand how we expect our students to seek out information when half of the pages of the book are torn out. Didn’t Ray Bradbury warn us against this once? Didn’t George Orwell live this nightmare? The consensus in the room was that there are a lot of good resources out there for our kids to access information. On the same token, there are a lot of “crappy” resources out there that kids are actually using for research and getting good marks for it. We need to teach our kids to filter through the jungle of information on the internet. They have access to more information than any generation in history. Our responsibility, as teachers, is to give them the tools to get to the most credible and legitimate information out there. Moreover, IT and Administrators cannot limit that scope. They need to ensure our students are browsing and searching responsibly, but on the same hand, having access to all available sources.

My next session talked about two sites that I plan on incorporating into the Boys’ Latin project based learning units next fall. The session was delivered by Mike (@mritzius) and Nicolae (@nborota). They shared their experiences as classroom teachers using Project Foundry and Moodle. I left this session and edcamp very impressed with the comprehensive nature of Project Foundry. Until today, I had never really heard much about it, but I found myself modeling a similar, free application in my own classroom: A wikispace. However, the one element that I really enjoyed about Project Foundry is its ability to catalogue everything a student does throughout the course of high school, and at the end of their senior year, they have a digital portfolio to take with them on a DVD. Plus, this program puts the student in the driver seat and places the onus on the student to get their work done in a timely manner. I plan on looking into this program further and hopefully integrating it into our PBL units next year.

And now, back to door prizes.

After lunch and a brief stroll in the rain, Rich and I entered our classroom for our unconference session on what an Instructional Technology Specialist looks like. We entered the dated classroom and noticed desks in rows, a chalkboard, and an overhead projector. Somewhere the gods of Irony were laughing out loud. Rich found a lost expo marker and a CFF keychain light. We decided to give them away as door prizes and began tweeting to the masses to promote our wonderful session:

#EDCAMP giving away a sweet CFF pocket flashlight in our session. You want to be in 305 at 1:30.”

#edcamp 1:30 in 305-being an effective Instructional Technologist and make real change- @andycinek & I would love to have you in discussion!”

#edcamp 1:30 in 305-being an effective Instructional Technologist and make real change w/ @andycinek Come join the convo”

#edcamp Also if no one shows up at 1:30 in 305 I’ll cut the power. Just kidding. No but seriously…”

Our session started with my plans and fears as I move into this new position. I started by giving my background and my visions for the position. I relayed my plan to start with a survey monkey. Not actually a monkey that goes around soliciting answers for coins (although this would be awesome), but an actual website that is great for free surveys. I expressed my idea of wanting the faculty to tell me what they wanted to do with technology rather than telling them they have to use a wiki or have to use Google Docs. I’ve seen this before and it never takes off. Plus, one will always encounter uncooperative faculty when it comes to trying anything new. They have been doing it the same way for years and there is no way they will be changing now. And that is fine. Be an Edu-saur. Enjoy it.

We discussed many great ideas in our session, from Acceptable Use Policies (AUP) to unblocking websites, and finishing with some great insights on Google Apps from Michelle (@michelleleandra). I provided many questions about starting out as an ITS and Rich provided clarity and experience to what he has been doing as an ITS for the past three years. In the end, we could have spent days talking in our session. We left fulfilled and we were still talking as we went through the hallways towards our next session. This got me thinking “This is what I want my students to emulate, this is how I want my faculty and Administration to converse, these conversations need to happen!”

The final session I attended focused on the wonderful world of Google Apps. Again, this was another lively session that could have lasted for days, if not weeks. This session was led by Rita (@rchuchran) Frank (@Fronk2000), Karen (@SpecialKRB), and Kristen (@kristenswanson). This session involved a lot of collaboration and sharing of ideas. We all spoke up and disclosed our best use of Google Apps. Everyone said something completely different and we all agreed that Google Forms rule.

This was a fulfilling day in many ways. I left wanting more. I wanted edcamp to last for a week, maybe more. The conversations were rich and thought provoking. I left better than when I entered as the first camper that morning. I think I speak for all attendants when I say this is the model we want all of our schools to emulate. These conversations need to fill our halls and trickle down to our students. I want my students to leave my classroom like I left an edcamp session; I want them continuing the dialogue far beyond the parameters of school. Edcamp provided all of this along with a really cool t-shirt. Thank you edcamp. I plan on being first every year.

My Proposal 2.0


This is my proposal. This is my initial pitch for technology reform in my school. Our students have laptops and our classrooms have smart boards, however, at this point we just have aesthetically pleasing tools. How we use these tools, how we integrate these tools, will define how our students learn in a 21st century context.

A lot of schools wear the badge of technology proudly on their sleeve, however, how are they really incorporating these new tools? How far do students travel beyond Microsoft Word and Powerpoint? In short, could we run the same class if we were using word processors or typewriters? If you answered yes, then you are not integrating technology.

“We never use our laptops.”

This comment was all it took for me. I began by engaging my PLN and looking back through the previous work I had done with technology integration (most examples are found on my blog archive). I found standards for the 21st century student via the NCTE framework for 21st Century Learning skills and assessment. I wrote the following proposal and presented the idea to my administration. This was only step one. Step two will take place on January 13 when I will present a PD to our faculty. This presentation will run roughly 30-40 minutes and include time for “playing around” with new technology “toys”. Teachers will work on writing their technology integration plans and select one, maybe two, new learning tools to incorporate into their curriculum maps.

This is exactly what I had hoped for when I addressed my administration about this idea. They were receptive and excited about getting our technology plan in order. The other end of this is the possibility of a new position for next fall. I would still teach a few ELA classes, but my other focus would be working within classrooms to help teachers incorporate, utilize and effectively monitor technology use in their content area. I would work hand in hand with teachers to design and implement tech-driven lesson plans.

Like riding a bike for the first time, it is good to have someone guiding you. Eventually they will let go and we will be off on our own, riding without assistance. The same can be said for implementing technology into our curriculum. We need to guide our teachers, give them the initial assistance they need and eventually let them ride on their own. My school is giving me this opportunity, and I plan on making our school “cutting edge” “21st century” “2.0” and every other neo-buzzword you can think up.

As with any post I write, I look forward to hearing your feedback, comments and suggestions. If you have traveled this road before, please feel free to contact me with comments about your experience.


Curriculum & Instructional Technology Specialist
Job Proposal by: Andrew P. Marcinek


Please consider the following job proposal for a new position for Boys’ Latin Charter School of Philadelphia. The title I am requesting is “Curriculum & Instructional Technology Specialist.” If awarded this position, I believe I can use my experience, talents and abilities to help our school be on the cutting edge of Virtual Learning and 21st Century Skills.


Job Description:

The Curriculum & Instructional Technology specialist will collaborate with administration, teachers, students and parents in the area of instructional technology synthesis. This position will work in creating a school wide educational technology curriculum, synthesize all content standards and technology standards and work with teachers to incorporate technology into all content areas to meet the needs of 21st century skills.

21st century skills

  • Information and communications skills Examples:
    • Using communication, information processing, and research tools (such as word processing, e-mail, groupware, presentation software, and the Internet) to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, create, and communicate information). These skills include information and media literacy skills.

  • Thinking and problem-solving skills Examples:
    • Using problem-solving tools (such as spreadsheets, decision support, and design tools) to manage complexity, solve problems, and think critically, creatively, and systematically.

  • Interpersonal and self-directional skills Examples:
    • Using personal development and productivity tools (such as e-learning, time managers, and collaboration tools) to enhance productivity and personal development. These skills include accountability and adaptability skills.

  • Use digital technology and communication tools to access, manage, integrate and evaluate information; Construct new knowledge; Communicate with others effectively. Examples:
    • Using 21st Century tools (such as word processing, e-mail, presentation software, the Internet, spreadsheets, decision support programs, design tools, e-learning, time management programs, and collaboration tools) combined with learning skills in core subjects equals 21st Century Skills (ICT Literacy) Teach and learn in a 21st century context.

  • Learn academic content through real-world examples;
    • Learning must expand beyond the four classroom walls. Teach and learn 21st century content (3 emerging content areas) Global awareness, Financial, economic and business literacy, and Civic literacy. Use 21st Century Assessments that measure 21st Century Skills High quality standardized tests Classroom assessments for teaching and learning.

21st Century Assessment

· Supports a balance of assessments, including high-quality standardized testing along with effective classroom formative and summative assessments.

· Emphasizes useful feedback on student performance that is embedded into everyday learning.

· Requires a balance of technology-enhanced, formative and summative assessments that measure student mastery of 21st century skills.

· Enables development of portfolios of student work that demonstrate mastery of 21st century skills to educators and prospective employers.

· Enables a balanced portfolio of measures to assess the educational system’s effectiveness at reaching high levels of student competency in 21st century skills

Suggested List of Performance Responsibilities

Curriculum and Instructional Support

1. Monitor the use of instructional technology to ensure that resources and activities enhance rigorous academic content and the school’s mission.

2. Assist teachers in the classroom to provide training on the integration of technology and curriculum. Offer support hours in tech lab.

3. Maintain blog for teachers, parents, and staff; to share inspiration, assistance, engagement, and resources.

4. Make continuous improvements in key processes, techniques, and procedures.

5. Promote a positive, caring climate for learning. Deal sensitively and fairly with all staff ranging in diverse levels of technology proficiencies.

6. Participate in training and conferences for 21st Century Skills and Web 2.0.

7. Establish technology proficiencies for teachers and students and provide support training model to help them achieve success.

8. Participate in collaboration teams to develop a school-wide technology plan.

9. Develop list of project ideas, to be submitted in August, which would be centered on teacher support and professional development.

10. Seek out professional development opportunities for administration, faculty and staff.

This is an updated version of what I am using to present my idea to our Administration and Faculty. I encourage you to steal this and make it your own! Show your faculty, your friends your tweeps! Enjoy the lack of bullet points and minimalistic approach. If you would like to see what I have done with my wikispaces in the classroom or any other learning tool presented, please feel free to get in touch with me.


The One Comment A Day Project

After my last post on discovering your Personal Learner’s Network (PLN), I had a brief epiphany. This vision came in from simply adding a comment to a bloggers post that happens to reside in my PLN. I read the post, processed the information and responded constructively. Simple. Painless. Helpful.

At this point I thought, wouldn’t it be great if everyone in my PLN did this at least once a day. Yes, it would!

So here is my idea…

I’m calling it the “One Comment A Day Project”. This project will help promote educational collaboration throughout the blogosphere and promote and stimulate educational dialogue. All you have to do is pick one blog a day (you can obviously choose to read more) and leave a positive, insightful comment for the blogger. That’s it! One comment a day and you can change the blogging landscape and make a blogger smile.

Here is the process.

1. Read a blog

2. Post a comment that is insightful and constructive.

3. Tweet a link to the blog and your comment. Use the hash tag #OneComment

EXAMPLE: I just read a great piece on iTeach blog, check it out! #OneComment

4. Bookmark the blog and return to it another time.

It is just that easy! This Project will help create a positive forum for all who blog and comment. There are so many good educational blogs out there and I look forward to hearing your feedback and engaging in your comments!

The second phase of this project will be a featured blog a week project. This forum will review and promote one educational blog per week. It will also try and introduce new edu-blogs into the learning community. I will be setting up a Ning for this venture. The sole purpose of both ventures is to promote learning and create an engaging dialogue between so many great academic minds. The twitter hash tag for this will be #1Newblog

Please send me your thoughts, suggestions and feedback on both new ventures!I would also like to put together a small team to help with this venture due to the time consuming nature of the project. If you would like to help your fellow bloggers and be an integral part of this venture, please contact me at onecommentproject@gmail.com

I have also set up a separate twitter account for this second phase. It will be @1commentproject. Please follow it for blog updates and blog promotions. When we spread the word about great blogs, we all shine!

I would be looking for help with the following:

1. Finding new blogs

2. Posting Reviews of Blogs

3. Archiving a Blog roll on the Ning

4. Monitoring the Ning

I am very passionate about this project and am putting a lot of time and energy behind it. My belief is that we can all learn from each other and have endless technologies to help us collaborate! I really hope to see my PLN jump on board with me and help promote the edu-blogging community!

One Comment Project T-shirts, beach towels and pillow cases to follow!

Are you ready for next fall?

Pop Quiz hot shot…

What are your plans to use technology in your classroom next fall? What is your plan for day one? Does it involve anything that I have blogged about? Does it involve a personality test that groups kids by colors? Does it involve asking students one by one to describe their summer vacation and the question, ‘if you were a car what one would you be?’

If you are already overwhelmed by my brief, yet aggressive, pop quiz, then here are some practical ideas you can implement next year from day one. If you subscribe to this list and try a few, you too, may be known as the “techie teacher” by October.




1. Obtain a Twitter account

Please, just try it before you sigh and move on to number two. I made this number one because I have been turned on to so many great teaching blogs and links to great articles. Twitter can be a very useful collaborative tool among teachers all over the world. Yes, world! I keep up with a teacher in Portugal. And it is very interesting!

Twitter allows you to follow whom you want and block those you don’t want. You can share and collaborate with fellow teachers and even set up a group that will allow your school to tweet together. Twitter does not spam and all that is required of you is a clever username and password. Set up your photo if you want and your ready to tweet away!

I find the best time to use twitter is to pick a few times during the day when you can scour your twitter feed and pick the articles you want, save them and read them later. If you try and stay current all day, you may find yourself in the weeds and overwhelmed by over-tweeting. Don’t try and keep pace, simply tweet at your own convenience.

The idea of twitter can also be used without even setting up an account. The twitter frame work – expressing yourself in 140 characters – can be used to extract main ideas and to summarize a reading. On day one have students go to the board and explain something they did this summer in 140 characters. It serves as a nice day one ice breaker and will probably draw a few laughs.

Go here for Twitter

2. Create a Google Calendar

I find that a Google calendar can be a lifesaver and a great way to integrate other calendars in your school. I personally have one calendar for my personal life, one for my school’s academic calendar, one for technology conferences and our tech coordinator has one for his availability. All these calendars can be viewed on one single page and you can turn different calendars off and on if your June begins to look like a bag of skittles fell on to the page.

The other amazing feature about Google calendar is that you can share and subscribe to other calendars. This allows you to set up calendars in your district and coordinate with each other at all times. I also set up a Google Calendar for each of my classes and embed them on our class Wiki. It is a great way to post assignments and keep parents, guidance counselors and supervisors informed.

Click here for Google Calendar

3. Create a classroom Social Network

This can be done through numerous venues. I have always had the best experience with a Wiki space. It is easy for students to understand and they can easily adapt to the process of editing and sharing on the page. You can make your Wiki space private, however, you can open it up to parents, administrators and grandma, who lives 3000 miles away, but would like to see what her grandson is doing in school.

The Wiki allows you to easily upload assignments, photos and videos. Students can participate in threaded discussion and allows teachers and students to collaborate through e-mail. I find the class wiki to be a great year-to-year resource as well. Everything my students create or that I assign is posted on the wiki. At the end of every school year I go back through and see what we accomplished and how I can make it better next year. Think of your class wiki as the lesson planner you always wanted!

Finally, the Wiki is also a great tool to house student portfolios. I covered this topic last month and find that a student portfolio wiki will allow students to track their progress from year to year and allow them to have access to it. This idea works beyond their high school years as well. They can take their wiki to college with them and continue to add and upgrade their portfolio.

Check out this post here.

Click here for wikispaces

4. Use Animoto!

If there were one tool that I am simply in love with, it would be Animoto. I have covered this site in a previous post and have used it numerous times in my own classroom. It is an application that can be used across all disciplines and will enhance your classroom flare!

I have used it to create movie trailers for all of the books my students will read during the semester. Rather than acquire a video camera and learn how to use editing software, Animoto takes care of it for you! Here is one I created for Hamlet. It took me roughly 5-10 minutes to create.

This is a great icebreaker for day one of a unit! Kids can showcase their prior knowledge and also make predictions about the upcoming literature. Another idea is to have your students create their own Animoto preview for the literature or play they just completed. Then you can showcase their films at the beginning of next year. Tell students their target audience is next year’s freshman class and that they have to draw them into reading Hamlet!

Find Animoto here

5. Plan Ahead this summer!

There are lots of tools out there for teachers to use and it can be overwhelming to try them all. At the end of each year I recommend reflecting on your lessons and trying to find a new web 2.0 tools to enhance that particular lesson or unit.

One of the biggest mistakes one can make is to try all these tools out mid unit. This creates chaos and is not healthy for the classroom. If you spend more time trying to tweak the application you are using than provide the content then the point is lost. Try these steps when trying to implement new technologies into your classroom.

1. Become an expert on the application

2. Synthesize the lesson so that the application does not distract from the content

3. Plan out your time and set parameters for equipment usage so that you don’t usurp valuable class time

4. Provide a supplemental handout for students in case they do not understand the new application

As always I look forward to your feedback and would love to hear how you are planning ahead for next year. Please comment with any new ideas you are trying out or any additions to this list.

Happy Summer!

Lindenwold Middle School Features iTeach!

In their weekly news letter, the Language Arts Department at Lindenwold Middle School, in Lindenwold, NJ featured two blog posts from iTeach. The newsletter focuses on utilizing Shelfari and Goodreads for their summer reading program. The newsletter author asks teachers to check out these new learning tools and finds both sites to be a good way to keep students accountable over the summer.
The author also covers the Animoto post and encourages teachers who are hesitant about making videos in the classroom, to try this new tool and experience the ease of the application.
Please let me know if you are featuring iTeach in any of your school publications! It not only helps promote new teaching ideas throughout your school but increases my smile along with my ever expanding ego 🙂
Thanks to all who share and collaborate new teaching ideas!

Coming Soon To iTeach: Collaboration Friday!

When I initially set out to start this blog, my goal was for it to serve as a universal resource for all educators. My mission was to have weekly contributors, sharing practical ideas for implementing technology into the classroom. It is still my hope that this will happen and to promote this new phase, I want to introduce Collaboration Fridays!

Collaboration Fridays will showcase technology driven lesson plans and ideas that teachers have successfully used in their classroom. Teachers in any discipline are urged to share their ideas and I will post as many lessons I receive each Friday. I felt Friday would be the best day to showcase outside lesson ideas because Friday we can look forward to the weekend and possibly reflect on a new lesson or work on designing something new for the upcoming week.
All teachers who share in this collaboration will receive full credit for their work and the same audience that all of my regular posts receive. Plus you will be noted in the contributors section that will be viewable this Friday. All work is protected and licensed through the creative commons license at the bottom of my page. In short we encourage educators to use and share this work, but not for commercial purposes.
Those who wish to share an idea or lesson are urged to do so and provide the following information:
Name:
e-mail:
Title/Position:
A brief summary of who you are:
Website or Blog:
Your written lesson with attached documents or examples of work:
You can e-mail Collaboration Friday Submissions to: collaboration.friday@gmail.com

You can send video, document (MS Word, PDF, etc.) and audio attachments to my e-mail.

Any questions or comments please let me know! Thanks for sharing and I look forward to
adding lots of new work every Friday!

We are the Knights who say…NING!

As the school year dwindles down towards summer days and departmental planning for next year, why don’t you take an educated risk and start a Ning in your school or department for next school year!

A what now?
A Ning! A Ning is a social networking platform that allows users to create their own network! It is very easy to setup and use, plus the collaboration aspect is excellent! Creating a ning allows users to share information, such as links, personal blogs and even create discussion forums. You can make your Ning private or open it up to the entire world. Users can send messages, write on your personal page and share, share…share! Plus it would flatten the walls of your department and allow you to collaborate easily in the summer and over vacations.
A district wide Ning would be a great idea, but starting small within your department would be a more practical idea for next fall. Plus, when you and your department are talking about this cool new word next year and sounding like a movie reference from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you can then begin to pass on the great idea to other departments.
If you are still confused and still trying to figure out just exatcly what social networking can do for your school or department, I will leave you with a brief video courtesy of Mr. LeFever. Enjoy and I look forward to hearing about all great departmental Ning’s you have created!

Hello Animoto

Have you ever wanted your students to make a video for a class project but felt uneasy about the laborious process and the amount of class time it would take to accomplish this task? Fear not! Animoto is here to save you time and still give you the video your students can enjoy and share!

I have personally used Animoto for back to school nights and in my Language Arts classes to help students understand themes, characterization and symbolism within the novels we cover. Animoto is simple, easy and free for educators to use. All you need is a digital camera (or properly cited photos form the web), a laptop and an Animoto account for educators. Watch how simple it is…

Here are some ways you can utilize Animoto in your classroom

Create Novel Movie Trailers!

  1. Animoto utilizes “MTV Style” editing to show brief clips of a specific subject or theme set to music. This is perfect for gleaning the main elements of a novel or chapter you just read in class.
  2. At the end of the school year when you are reviewing for finals or mid terms (depending on your schools academic calendar) have the students make a brief Animoto video that they can use to
    1. Reflect on what the novel or unit was about
    2. Pick out the important elements of the chapter or novel

i. Main Points

ii. Characters

iii. Themes

iv. Symbols

v. Setting

    1. Tell them that their audience will be next year’s incoming class and they have to convince them that this novel will be an amazing read! Just like film directors would do with a summer blockbuster.
    2. If you want to stretch out this assignment and go a step further, visit http://www.bighugelabs.com/flickr/ and you can create movie posters for the novels.

i. You see what is happening here…Students are creating a product that requires them to use prior knowledge and also display that knowledge in a creative manner.

  1. As a teacher, you can show these videos on the first day of class next year. You can print out and hang up the movie posters of the novels on your bulletin board.
Here is how easy it is to create an Animoto video
and…
Here is what I just created in roughly five minutes

Creating Animoto Videos in other Disciplines!

  1. For Vocabulary words
    1. At the beginning of the Vocabulary unit have go over the list of words with your students as you normally would at the beginning of a unit.
    2. Have students define words, provide proper parts of speech and provide sentences (maybe 3 to 5).
    3. Students are arranged in groups of two. Each group will be given the following:

i. One digital camera

ii. One Vocabulary word

    1. Students will have to create an Animoto video for the word they are given. Students must include in their video:

i. The word

ii. The part of speech

iii. The definition

iv. At least two sentences

v. An image relating to the word

    1. Once the videos are created, the teacher will present the videos to the class and will serve as a brief review for the upcoming Vocabulary quiz.
  1. For Math teachers
    1. This would be a flashy way to introduce a new formula or problem. You can take the above examples and apply it to your discipline.
  2. For History teachers the possibilities are endless.
    1. In history class you could have students research an Amendment and make an Animoto video displaying the main points of that Amendment and also find images that represent that Amendment. This could work for numerous historical units:

i. Presidents

ii. New Countries covered

iii. Bill of Rights

iv. American Wars

  1. For Special Education and Life skills Teachers
    1. This would be a great way to show your kids how to perform a basic task such as raising your hand
    2. Students, with assistance, can find images of kids raising their hand in class. Students and teacher can assemble the images and even take a photo of the child performing the task, and compile them into an Animoto video.
    3. This could work with various life skills

i. Crossing the street

ii. Washing your hands

iii. Brushing your teeth

Again, this is another practical, easy to use application that every teacher and student can use. I hope this idea has helped to bring technology into your classroom and look forward to hearing how you are using Animoto in your classroom!

Where for art thou Twitter!

I have been using Twitter for over a year. Since New Years 2009, Twitter has taken off to new heights. Everybody wants you to follow him or her on twitter, from United States Senators to Shaq, twitter has become a ubiquitous forum for those who want to know everything.

So, why is Twitter so cool? I still haven’t figured that out yet but it has become a forum for all of us to communicate and collaborate. So how can we utilize the concept of twitter in our classroom? Here are some ideas I am pondering…

…but first, let’s learn about Twitter in Plain English…

Language Arts

Objective: Have students twitter between characters in a story from the previous nights reading.

Process: Students will read chapter 1 of Lord of the Flies. After they read they will construct a twitter list between Jack and Piggy

This twitter list must include the following elements:

  1. Setting
  2. Characterization
  3. Context
  4. New Vocabulary
  5. A twitter screen name for Jack and Piggy that reflects their character.

NOTE: Entry can only be 140 characters long! Be specific and concise.

EXAMPLE

LeaderJack: Looks like we are stranded! Fat kid is freaking out. I call him Piggy.

TimidPiggy: There are no adults here! My Auntie says I should not go swimming because of my Asthma.

TimidPiggy: Where are the other boys. Found a coch shell – Raplh blew it and we found the other children

LeaderJack: Piggy wants order. I blew the conch shell and we gathered everyone.

LeaderJack: They elected me chief!

Have students read their twitter posts out loud in class and explain why they selected their material. Segue this into a class discussion. Compare and contrast postings from other students.

Social Studies

Students can make a twitter list for historical figures. Like the language arts example, students can glean the main points of a specific historical figure and use that to understand whom this historical figure is.

Activity 1:

  1. For homework, assign students a historical figure based on the current unit of study.
    1. NOTE: you can also use this to personify Amendments, Bills, etc. i.e. what would the First Amendment twitter about?
  2. Students construct a twitter list for the aforementioned assignments. Students must provide the following elements for their twitter list:
    1. A screen name that represents the personality of the figure, Amendment or bill. NOTE: it will be the roles of your classmates to guess whom you are referring to based on your twitter information.
    2. Organize your “tweets” chronologically.
    3. Provide context and information pertinent to your subject.

Students bring in their Twitter list and present it to the class. Students will try and figure out who is Twittering based on the information provided.

This is a great idea for a unit review and students can use their “tweets” as a focused study guide.

Activity 2:

This activity would target secondary and middle school students.

Objective: Have students create their own twitter account and follow a US or State Senator or Representative.

Process:

  1. Students find a US, State or local dignitary to follow on twitter.
  2. Students will follow what the dignitary is “tweeting” about and file a twitter report each week on whom they are following
    1. This could be a form of current events in the classroom.

Recommendations: Make sure you alert administration, parents and your tech director before allowing students to participate on twitter.

Mathematics

For math, teachers can use this tool very simply.

  1. Every night one student will tweet a selected math problem to the class.
    1. EXAMPLE: 32 + 43 = ?
  2. Students will have to answer the problem by the student posted for that night as an extension of the homework.

NOTE: Based on grade level, you can make your tweets more challenging. I see this working well with more involved math such as Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus.

Colleagues

I have always felt twitter would be an effective tool for teacher collaboration. Imagine a world where your entire school building is on twitter. Your principal opens up his twitter account every morning and can see what you will be covering in your classroom today. Maybe something peeks his interest and he sends you a direct message to ask if he could drop in to see this lesson. Cool right? Unless you don’t care for your principal and feel that he or she serves a better purpose at his or her desk then in your classroom.

Or imagine collaborating with other teachers on your own twitter account. Say you are covering Hamlet and a neighboring teacher is covering the same unit. You collaborate through twitter about what you are covering each day. Maybe even set up a web cast between your students where you can discuss Hamlet Act 1 Scene 1.

The above examples are simple blueprints of what you can do within the parameters of a twitter post. And you thought only celebs and Senators could twitter! Pshawh! Also, check out TWEETDECK. It is a great forum to organize all of your tweets on your desktop!

I hope these ideas peeked your interest and that you take leap and make twitter part of your classroom! I look forward to hearing your feedback and how you have used twitter in your classroom and school district!