iTeach180 Project Day 10

Yesterday we covered RSS feeds and had students set up their Google reader accounts. Today we are going to create RSS feeds within our classroom wikispace. This assignment will be a nightly assignment and will work in conjunction with their blog.

Objectives
Students will be able to access RSS feeds from various outlets
Students will be able to compose a blog post

Process:

Today, I want to focus on a reading strategy that I am using with my tenth grade English class. On my wikispace, I have several RSS feeds linked into a page. This page updates regularly and allows students to view the most current articles from The Philadelphia Inquirer, ESPN.com, NPR, etc. I tried to present an array of feeds rather than just one. The point of this assignment is to get students reading daily and to encourage reading independently. Also, students are acquiring knowledge about their world. Plus, reading and responding nightly is slowly building your students’ prior knowledge database that they can access on any…dare I say…standardized test. I find this to work best for high school students and especially AP students who will have to enter the English Language and Composition test with a well-rounded knowledge base.

Here is the assignment…

Every night students read one article from one of the five feeds I have selected. You may choose more than five or allow students to add to the feed. They must read the article, and then list three facts about the article, three questions they have about the article, one supported opinion and list and define any new vocabulary words they come across. They type this up in a Google Doc and then post it to their blog.

NOTE: Always remind students to compose their blog posts in a separate forum so they can save frequently in the instance their blogger or word press page goes down.

Students are always told what they have to read, this allows students the freedom of reading something they can select on their own and enjoy. Here is a video that will show you how to set up an RSS feed on your wikispace. Enjoy! 


iTeach180 Project Day 7

Last week we went over Google Apps and docs that will be staples in our class everyday. This week we will be setting up our classroom wikispace. The wikispace will incorporate many types of media and become our hub for resource sharing, hosting, and collaborative projects.
Yesterday we set up our wikispace and went over the criteria for using and navigating a wikispace effectively. Today, students will be adding their blogger accounts to the wikispace.
Objectives:
Students will be able to set up a blog via blogger.com
Students will be able to edit a wikispace
Students will be able to add an external link to a wikispace.
Process
The best way to begin this lesson is to model it for your students while their laptop screens are down and they are watching.  You may want to place screen shots into a PowerPoint and show them the steps or you can simply walk them through the process.
1. The first step is to have students set up their own blog via blogger or you can choose to have one class blog. I prefer to have students create their own blog. Allowing students to create their own blog gives them ownership and gives them an online presence that they are responsible for keeping.
2. Once students have created their blogs have them grab the link, and copy it.
3. Return to the wikispace and explain that the left hand frame of a wikispace is like a table of contents. It will show you everything that is on the page and allow you to navigate through the entire site. Also explain that an external link will have a small green arrow after the link name. This will usually take you to another page or another tab depending on which browser you are using.
4. Show your students that when they click below on “edit navigation” at the bottom of the left hand frame, they will have the ability to edit the navigation frame. Remind them that even though the navigation text appears in the main frame, it will still only edit the left-hand navigation frame.
NOTE: When I set this up before I edited the navigation frame the day before to display the title “BLOG ROLL” and underneath I typed in all of their names. This will save you time when setting up this feature on your wikispace. You can select this LINK that will allow you to see my AP English wikis setup.
5. Have students click the “edit navigation” link at the bottom of the navigation frame. The text of the navigation frame will now appear in the main frame on the right. Have each student find his or her name under the blog roll, highlight his or her name, and click on the link button in the editing toolbar. The “add link” window will pop up and allow you to add a link (see images below). After students select “add link” they will be taken back to the main page and their name will now be purple, have a line under it and a little green arrow will be following it. If they see all of these items, they have successfully created an external link to their blog. Make sure students click save, and the wikispace will be updated to reflect changes made.
Today students created a blog that will be used for this class and added an external link to the wikispace. Having a blog roll of your students on your wikispace allows you, the teacher, and your students to learn and collaborate in an organized setting. Tomorrow we will cover blog writing procedures and expectations. For homework, you may want to give your students a writing prompt to blog about and have them post a comment on one of their peers blogs. This homework assignment will help segue into tomorrow’s lesson. 

21st Century Learning and Assessment Example


Yesterday I wrote a guest blog post for Edutopia on 21st Century Assessment and learning. In order to keep things concise, I only provided a brief example of how to incorporate this type of learning into the classroom. However, today I am going to share my wikispace and show you one of my assignments that I am starting today with the novel The Kite Runner. The assignment covers a variety of skills and objectives and asks students to seek out information, think critically, and answer a question. This question does not have one solution and is open to interpretation. I am asking students to present their findings using any method they see fit. In order to keep track of progress each student will be sharing a Google Doc with me and are required to update their daily progress and provide a summarized brief of tasks, roles, and what they accomplished for the day. I have found this method is essential when using group work forums. Students can easily get lost or skim by in a group, therefore, it is essential to track their progress and have them assess each other.

Here is the assignment. You can also access my wikispace with this assignment and other ways in which I have been using this platform and incorporating various learning tools.

Today’s Focus: The Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan: Symbolism in Chapter 10


1. Go to the Springfield Township Library Search page. Use Google “News Timeline” to research the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Remember, this occupation started on December 24, 1979 and lasted until February 1989.
2. Find some information on the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan during this span of ten years and answer one of the following questions:

  • How is the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan representative of what is happening in The Kite Runner thus far?
  • What effect does this occupation have on family and traditions in Afghanistan?

3. Organize your information and be prepared to present this to the class. This will be your test grade for chapters 1-10. Your presentation may be done individually or within a group. Everyone must take an active role and each group member must organize their information on a Google Doc and share it with me. The Google Doc must include:

  • Group members names
  • The Question you are covering
  • Links to any information, images, or music that you plan on using. All of this information must be cited properly
  • Tasks you accomplished and everyone’s role in the group (i.e. creating the presentation, organizing information, etc.)
  • A daily brief summarizing what you accomplished for the entire day.

You will be graded on the following criteria:

  • Did you answer your question? When you are doing your research you must always refer back to your question. I’m not looking for a concrete solution, but I’m seeking you to think critically about the subject and follow through with supported opinion and a logically constructed answer.
  • Did you play an active role in the group? What role did you play in your group and did you participate actively and equally with all group members? If you and your group can answer yes to both, then you will receive full credit for this component.
  • Did you present well? Is your presentation method creative and interesting to the class? Did you think “outside the box” and move beyond a powerpoint or create a dynamic powerpoint that serves as a backdrop rather than a slide inundated with bullet points?
  • Knowledge of content? Did you discover the symbolic meaning of this invasion as it is related to Kite Runner? Did you present the material in a way in which you know and understand what you are talking about, rather than letting the powerpoint talk for you (i.e. DON’T KILL US WITH BULLET POINTS!).

NOTE: A special thanks to Joyce Valenza (@joycevalenza) for creating an amazing student research start page at Springfield Township HS Library.

Independent Reading Assignment With RSS

On Friday, I discussed using Google forms within my wikispace. To some, this is nothing new, but for many it was a simple and effective way of integrating some technology into ones classroom. Today, I want to focus on a reading strategy that I am using with my tenth grade English class. On my wikispace, I have several RSS feeds linked into a page. This page updates regularly and allows students to view the most current articles from The Philadelphia Inquirer, ESPN.com, NPR, etc. I tried to present an array of feeds rather than just one. The point of this assignment is to get students reading daily and to encourage reading independently.

Here is the assignment…

Every night students read one article from one of the five feeds I have selected. They must read the article, and then list three facts about the article, three questions they have about the article, one supported opinion and list and define any new vocabulary words they come across. They type this up in a Google Doc and save it. The next day, we spend about ten minutes discussing their reading and their findings. Again, this is a simple way of integrating technology into your class and will promote active and independent reading.

Students are always told what they have to read, this allows students the freedom of reading something they can select on their own and enjoy. As always, I appreciate your feedback and would love to hear your ideas for Independent reading and technology in your classroom.

Using Google Forms And Wikispaces

If you have been following along with my recent blog posts, you know that I have been incorporating a classroom wikispace into my sophomore English class. The class is composed of students with very low reading levels. Thus far, they have really enjoyed the wikispace and I wanted to share two items (The second item will be featured tomorrow) that I have incorporated into the space that anyone can use in their own classroom wikispace.

The first item we use daily is Google Forms. Each day I create a new Google form and embed that form into my wikispace. The form has a prompt and a space to answer the question. You can select from a variety of response options such as, check boxes, multiple choice and text responses.

In the span of two days into the new trimester, my students have come into class, opened their laptops and logged on to the wikispace. I had them set their browser homepage to our class wikispace (NOTE: THIS IS A MUST! OR ELSE YOU WILL BE SPELLING OUT YOUR URL EVERYDAY!). Once the bell rings they read the prompt on the Google Form and begin working. Once they finish the prompt, they hit submit and their answer is sent to a Google Doc Spread sheet that I can view. It is simply amazing! When my students finish we have a brief discussion about their responses and this usually leads into our daily lesson. In the span of 10 minutes you have students reading, processing, responding,verbalizing and making connections. All the while, students are consistently engaged.

This also sets a great tone for the class and will help me organize for upcoming exams and quizzes. I can easily access the Google Doc Spreadsheet that contains all of their responses.

I really urge you to try this method if you have the ability to do so in your classroom. Here is an example of my “Do Now” prompt from today.

As I mentioned in my previous post, if you would like to join our wiki and observe the process, please feel free to contact me via e-mail. I will send you an invitation and you can be apart of the learning process. Let’s call it “Classroom Observation 2.0”.

My Letter To Parents

To Whom It May Concern:

This trimester in English Literature and Composition, my class will be taking a new approach to learning. We will be utilizing various technology resources to communicate, collaborate and differentiate instruction within our classroom.

Each student will be setting up their own free e-mail account for my classroom. We are utilizing the G-Mail platform through Google Applications. This e-mail will only be used for our class. I told each student that they will have the opportunity to communicate with me through this e-mail and I ask you to do the same regarding any questions or suggestions you have for this venture.

Secondly, I have created a classroom website that will only be used for my class. It is a completely separate platform from the school’s webpage, but serves many of the same functions. Our website is created through a wikispace. A wikispace is a site where we will communicate, collaborate and engage in a variety of classroom activities. The wikispace is a private platform and can only be accessed when you are invited by the organizer. I briefly showed the students how to use this site and informed them that they now will have 24-7 access to their classroom. If students miss class or are absent for some time, they can keep up with their work simply by accessing this site. All that is needed is a computer and an internet connection.

We have created classroom rules for this venture and on Wednesday, I had the students come up with their own rules for technology use in our classroom. They know these rules will be enforced and you can view our rules on the reverse of this page.

Finally, one of my primary goals for this venture is to include everyone in the learning process. I invite you to join our wikispace and become a part of the learning process. If you have any questions please feel free to e-mail me or call me (e-mail and number to follow). If you would like to be a part of our wikispace learning community, please provide me with your primary e-mail address so I can send you an invitation to our page. Please provide your name, signature and e-mail at the bottom of this page.

Sincerely,

Mr. Andrew P. Marcinek
e-mail: amarcinek@boyslatin.org
Phone: 484-416-0424

Parent/Guardian Name (Printed):__________________________________________________________

Parent/Guardian Signature: ______________________________________________________________

Parent/Guardian e-mail:_________________________________________________________________

ACCEPTABLE USE POLICY FOR TECHNOLOGY

The Following Rules were designed by periods 1 and 2 at Boys’ Latin Charter School of Philadelphia

  1. No social network sites in school
    1. Myspace
    2. Facebook

  1. No games
  2. Laptops are not to be used for notes
    1. When teacher is talking, laptops are down
    2. Notes can be written and transferred to computer
  3. No Youtube unless it is being used for a presentation or reference
  4. No inappropriate searches for images
  5. Background must be a solid color


Consequences

  1. First policy offense – cannot use laptop for the rest of the day. Parents and Administration notified
  2. Second policy offense – cannot use laptop for the week and assignments will be done through another platform (i.e. pen and paper). Parents and Administration will be notified. Student will also have an after school detention.
  3. Third policy offense – student will lose laptop privileges. Parents, Administration, teacher and student will have a conference. Student will have to earn his laptop back by completing the following:
    1. Write a laptop reinstatement letter to teacher and administration detailing why they broke policy and why we should let them have their laptop back. **


**If student has his laptop reinstated and break a policy rule again, the laptop will not be used for the rest of the year.**

This is my letter to parents. I welcome your feedback and ask you to share your own experiences with incorporating technology into your classroom. How did you involve parents? Administration? What was the experience like with parents working within the website? I look forward to hearing your experiences and I plan on writing about mine as we progress in the classroom. Also, if you would like to join our wikispace and become an observer, please feel free to get in touch with me at the e-mail listed below.


Let’s make learning ubiquitous!

Presenting Your PLN

In my last post, I talked about three easy steps to setting up and implementing a Personal Learning Network (PLN) in your school. In this post, I am catering to the visual learner and have created a Power Point that will surely engage your audience at your next PD. It involves four simple slides, four prominent words and four familiar images. There are no bullet points and no spiraling text. It is clean, crisp and allows you to vocalize your ideas on creating and implementing a PLN.

Use this Power Point! In fact, STEAL THIS POWERPOINT! Take it, impress your colleagues! Be the first to show what Power Point 2.0 looks like. Leave the bullets and spiraling text at home. Put it away and your colleagues will thank you. They will high-five you and smile in your general direction! You may even be carried out of the PD on the shoulders of your administrators.
Keep the presentation short and sweet. Show them how creating a PLN within your school will stimulate collaboration and enhance content. In the end, creating a PLN and accepting this is as simple as this Power Point. You will be resistance, but stay the course and don’t back down from an opportunity to enhance, stimulate and save your colleagues lots of time. All the while, helping students achieve 21st century learning skills.
If you use this simple presentation, please let me know the reaction you receive. Or if you have your own PD presentation created, I would love for you to share your ideas.

Creating A Grassroots PLN at your School

Recently I have been providing some of my colleagues with web 2.0 resources for their classrooms. They ask, “this is great, where did you find it?” I casually say, “well in my free time (meaning all day) I am quite the avid twit.” A light laugh ensues.

In a new charter school that is struggling with performance standards and catching up students who have been left behind by urban public school systems, it is hard to thread technology into the conversation. However, in the next few weeks I am going to propose several new initiatives to our administration. These new initiatives will include the following items…

1. Creating a learning network within our building


This learning network will include several key ingredients. First, I plan to inspire my colleagues to obtain a twitter account. I really feel like twitter has become the stepping stone for jumping off into a world of endless resources and collaboration. Since joining twitter two years ago, I have met so many great minds and educators. They have all helped to provoke and motivate my thinking in ways that make teaching an exciting venture. Now, I am sure I will encounter the questions


“what value will this have in my classroom?”


“we have enough to do, I cannot add anything more to my plate”


“this will just distract from teaching, no?”


These are some of the questions that I expect and I am sure there will be more. My answers will flow something like this. Twitter is what you make of it. It is not required to teach and is certainly not a distraction from my own teaching. Our kids are behind because most of them received a 20th century education that included copious amounts of “busy work”. Having a twitter account will allow you to find other teachers, principals and administrators who are encountering the same hurdles. You can begin by posing a question and segue into a discussion in which you are solving problems through twitter. At that’s it, twitter is simply a forum that allows us to engage in a rapid exchange of ideas. Twitter is what you make of it. It can be a distracter from lessons and work if you let it be, but for the most part, it is an integral part of my own teaching and has provided me with more insight into becoming a dynamic teacher than any other forum in my career.


There will always be those who are afraid of trying something new, however, if you want to start a PLN at your school, like I plan on, start with twitter. Show your colleagues the value of the rapid exchange of ideas and resources and they will never look back.


2. Wiki or Ning


Once you have your colleagues tweeting up a storm and delivering new teaching methods because of twitter, introduce them to a place where you can house all of your plans, units, ideas, calendars, meetings, etc. I am not partial to either of the aforementioned platforms, and have had great success with both in my experience.


I find a wiki space would work best for creating a forum to house lesson plans and school documents that parents, guardians and other teachers can access universally. I have used wikispaces with many of my classes and the kids find it easy and the parents adapt to the accessibility of information. The wikispace also allows everyone to be an active participant in taking ownership of the site.


However, if you simply want a forum to exchange ideas and resources links, then I feel a Ning would be best for you. A ning has less manipulability than a wiki and works best as a way for faculty, parents and administration to communicate and spread announcements rapidly in one place. In the Ning, you can also create groups for your departments. These groups can have remote PD’s through the chat forum and create and respond to discussion threads.


Again, both have their merits, but find out what you want your PLN forum to look like and choose which works best for you entire district.


3. Start organizing resources through Diigo


Diigo is the third part of the trifecta of creating a PLN within your school. I have really benefited from the Diigo groups that I have become a part of. I have found and promoted many blogs via Diigo and I cannot say enough about the ease of use. Diigo is a very easy to use site that allows users to bookmark a site, define the site and then categorically organize your sites. The web interface allows you to tag all of your websites you save and access them easily by each tag. You can also create groups and add friends to share in all of your bookmarks. When you add a colleague you both will be able to share and exchange bookmarks.


Creating a Diigo group is a great way to organize your department this fall. E-mail your department colleagues a link to a Diigo group. Tell them that you want to create an online resource library for links and blogs that fit your discipline. For those who say, “Now what? Something else to sign up for and receive junk mail” bribe them with candy. I usually go with Butterfinger, but also provide moist towelets, because no one wants a sticky keyboard!


Once you have them hooked, branch out and look into creating cross-curricular groups! Create a digital bridge with language arts and history; math and science. With Diigo, users have the ability to create wonderful learning communities and collaborate with each other. Building an online resource library should be on the “To Do” list of ever teacher this summer!


So that’s all. These three steps, along with standards and edu-tech curriculum examples, will serve as my platform for creating a PLN and a culture of education technology in my school.


I am tired of hearing my students complain that they do not get to use their laptops enough and I plan on changing that. Students need 21st century skills to compete globally. These skills are just as essential as reading, writing and math. If we keep pushing it off, it will only fade into wasted resources within our schools. We cannot let this happen. And we need to lead by example. Get your PLN started and give all of your colleagues a high-five for trying something completely different!

Discover your Personal Learner’s Network (PLN)

One of the best things I did last school year was create and enhance my Personal Learner’s Network or PLN (as we, “in the know” say). At first, all the different networks and abundance of information that was coming my way overwhelmed me. In one week I joined several Nings, set up a twitter account, set up my iGoogle page and subscribed to several blogs and wikis. The week after, I was swamped with so much new information that I could hardly find anytime to read it all. Information overload!

I found the conversation and new information about education very positive, but at the same time I wanted it to be centralized so I could filter what I wanted and reap the benefits of stimulating content. I also discovered that my PLN was much better than any Professional Development my school had provided in the past few years. I was now privy to a plethora of engaging conversations and progressively helpful content in my field. I was learning at my own pace and not sequestered to an auditorium on a bright summer day. Like the Verizon commercials, my network was ubiquitous.


Since starting my PLN I have weeded out the junk and managed to stay current with educational trends. I have a constant flow of information that appeals to my educational palate arriving on my screen daily. I have met and regularly correspond with many new educators, innovators and bloggers that are always willing to share and listen. In short, this is what every educator wants his or her school to be, a constant flow of information and collaboration. However, this is not the case in most districts.


By now you are bursting at the seams, you want to get started and begin developing your own PLN. Here are five things I would recommend to start your PLN before the beginning of the next school year.


1. Join the Classroom 2.0 Ning


This was my first step in developing my PLN and joining a Ning is simple an easy. But first, you might be asking, “what did he just say? A ning? Sounds like a Monty Python and the Holy Grail reference!” A Ning is an online platform for people to create their own social networks. A ning is basically your own personal facebook page tailored around a specific subject. You only have to provide basic information when setting up your Ning profile and in minutes you can be communicating and collaborating with thousands of like minded educators.

The Web 2.0 Classroom Ning allows members to share links, events, blogs and topic discussions. Members can also e-mail and chat with each other through the Ning website. As a Ning member, you will have your own personal page where other members can leave comments, add you as a colleague and can see your action log – basically shows anything you have posted or commented on throughout the Ning.

The Ning is a great start to develop your PLN and will have you collaborating and communicating with educators from all over the world in minutes.


You can access the Classroom 2.0 Ning at http://www.classroom20.com/ and you can access and start your own Ning at www.ning.com. You can also read an earlier blog post of mine that focused on setting up a Ning in your school district.


2. Join Twitter


At first I was hesitant about twitter and didn’t really buy into its intrusive nature, however, I have grown to really appreciate this platform. Twitter allows you to maintain a constant stream of information coming to you throughout your day at a rate of 140 characters per tweet or CPT. As a Tweep (a person who tweets), you can follow whom you want and block those you don’t want.


As a member of twitter I can keep up with colleagues in my PLN on a daily basis. I can read articles they post and respond to them privately or via the main feed. With twitter, I suggest finding a few good people to follow initially and then slowly expand your radius, as you get more comfortable with tweeting. Twitter also allows you to post photos, videos and links.


What I have gained most from twitter is the ability to access articles and information that I may have never seen. I have been turned on to new bloggers and many good books that have surfaced in tweets. Like any network, you have to weed out the material you want and not get overwhelmed by the one tweep who will post 300 tweets a day. There are also several desktop platforms that you can utilize to filter and showcase your twitter feed. The one I recommend using is TweetDeck. It can be used on any OS and its user interface is simple and user friendly.


Finally, Twitter employs a unique language. At times, this can be intimidating to most newbies, but fear not, there are plenty of twitter guides out there that are free and online. Three Twitter aids I recommend for the twitter newbie


A) Twittonary


Twittonary is a database of all the words utilized in the twitter lexicon. You can type in a word or simply select a letter and begin studying up for your Twit-cabulary Quiz this Friday!


B) Watch this Common Craft video


C) Watch this Great Slide show


Please feel free to follow me on twitter @andycinek and happy tweeting!


3. Read and Comment on Blogs


I have been turned on to many great blogs as a result of the previous two items listed above. As a blogger, I put a lot of time into my posts and try and promote an atmosphere of collaboration and communication. I never blog for the stats, but simply, to share information in my field without any concern for fame or fortune (Although if Scorsese ever returns my calls, we might be talking iTeach: The Movie!). Therefore, when I read other blogs I want to spend a few moments to take in the content, process it, and provide the author with my feedback. Leaving comments on others blogs is also a great way to get your own blog noticed. Again, not for the fame and fortune, but for the exchange of ideas and opinions.


Each week, dedicate yourself to reading several blogs and leave a constructive comment on one of those blogs each day. If you want to leave more than one, good for you! However, if you choose one a day to comment on, you will truly be sharing in the learning community and you may meet some new colleagues for your PLN!


4. Become Familiar with iGoogle and Google Reader


iGoogle is a great start for organizing your PLN. If you want to really filter your content, iGoogle is the place to start. iGoogle lets you create a personalized homepage that contains a Google search box at the top, and your choice of any number of gadgets below. Gadgets come in lots of different forms and provide access to activities and information from all across the web, without ever having to leave your iGoogle page. Here are some things you can do with gadgets:


* View your latest Gmail messages

* Read headlines from Google News and other top news sources

* Check out weather forecasts, stock quotes, and movie show times

* Store bookmarks for quick access to your favorite sites from any computer

* Design your own gadget. ***


***Courtesy of http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=20324

Google reader is another application that you can access directly from your iGoogle start page. Google Reader is Web-based aggregator, capable of reading Atom and RSS feeds online or offline. It allows you to take all the blogs you subscribe to or authors you enjoy reading and access them all in one place. Google reader has become one of my best friends and definitely beats book marking all of the blogs and authors you read. Google reader can also be accessed on most new smart phones. The iPhone has a great interface for iGoogle and Google Reader as well as the Android.

5. Attend a Conference

Attending a conference can not only bolster your PLN but also bring it to life. At times I feel like I know all these people whom I correspond with daily via twitter, nings, blogs, etc., but never really meet them. Attending a conference allows the little square photo icon to come to life. Plus, attending a conference will bring to life many of the discussions and conversations you have on a daily basis.

One way of keeping up with your PLN conference schedule is to create a google calendar with several members of your PLN. All users can share this calendar and when someone adds a conference to this calendar it will show up. I currently share a conference calendar with a colleague of mine and an esteemed member of my PLN. Her name is Donelle O’Brien and you should leave this blog and begin reading hers at http://lifelonglearning20.edublogs.org/

I hope this helps and will give you something to experiment with before you get back to school and are too overwhelmed with texts, schedule changes and parent teacher conferences. I hope to see you in my PLN in the near future!

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!