Future Plans

Below is the Technology Integration Plan for Boys’ Latin Charter School. This is our first draft and it will change, but I wanted to elicit feedback if you have done this before. I created this position at our school, drafted a job description, and will be fully implementing a technology driven curriculum next fall. This project has been in the works since November of 2009 and has finally come to a reality.

The plan below is the action plan for the Instructional Technology Specialist, which I will take over this summer. This plan serves as a comprehensive list of duties and responsibilities that my position will require. Again, if you have any experience with this kind of position or action plan, please give me your feedback

Boys’ Latin Technology Integration Plan

I. Integrate

II. Collaborate

III. Connect

IV. Organize

V. Educate

Boys’ Latin Instructional Technology Specialist Vision Statement

The Instructional Technology Specialist will develop comprehensive technology use plan to implement technology goals; Provide unified integrated technology approach throughout all grade levels; Enhance connection between Administration, Faculty, Students, and Parents; Research and analyze data to improve technology integration in all content areas; Seek ways to restructure and/or refine the role of faculty and staff to enhance the technology integration plan vision at Boys’ Latin.

I. Integration

The role of the instructional technology specialist (ITS) will be to assist and integrate appropriate technology in to the Boys’ Latin curriculum. The ITS will perform the following tasks to integrate technology:

1. The ITS will work with each department during summer planning. This meeting will focus on integrating 21st Century Literacy Standards into the existing Boys’ Latin Standards.

2. The ITS will meet weekly at each content area department meeting. Content area teachers will showcase student work or ways in which they are integrating technology into their weekly curriculum. The ITS will present new ways to integrate technology and schedule appointments to assist classroom teachers in technology driven lessons or projects.

3. The ITS will provide one professional development session a month to all content area teachers. This professional development may utilize an outside speaker, the ITS, or a collaboration of the ITS and teachers.

4. The ITS will make himself or herself available throughout the week. The ITS will have a shared calendar in which faculty and administration can sign up for ITS assistance for integrating technology.

II. Collaboration

The ITS will maintain communication and collaboration between Administration, Faculty, Students, and Parents. This collaboration will make the classroom transparent and allow for ubiquitous access. The ITS will perform the following tasks to maintain collaboration:

1. The ITS will ensure that Administration and Faculty are collaborating via online resources, email, and web pages.

2. The ITS will collaborate via social networks to acquire new resources for classroom teachers and seek out professional development.

3. The ITS will oversee the content area online resource library created in conjunction with each department head.

4. The ITS will collaborate with local and national schools that wish to link up for an online project.

III. Connect

The ITS will maintain connectivity with the school, community, and the home. Students and Parents will have access to assignments, projects, and online resources at all times. The ITS will perform the following tasks to maintain connectivity:

1. The ITS will communicate with parents to enhance home connectivity and provide consistent connectivity support at the home.

2. The ITS will assist teachers in connecting to resources and establishing an online presence.

3. The ITS will assist students in connecting to various online resources and databases.

4. The ITS will connect with local and national schools that are technology driven schools looking to collaborate with Boys’ Latin.

IV. Organize

The ITS will organize an online resource library and wikispace for Administration, Faculty, and Students. This resource library will constantly be updated and feature web resources that can be easily integrated into the Boys’ Latin Curriculum. The ITS will perform the following tasks to maintain organization:

1. The ITS will introduce the online resource library to Faculty in a brief professional development.

2. The ITS will maintain the online resource library so that all links and websites are current.

3. The ITS will show Administration and Faculty how to add content to the online resource library.

4. The ITS will create a shared calendar for Administration, Faculty, and Students. This calendar will allow all to set up an appointment with the ITS.

V. Educate

The ITS will consistently seek ways to improve the technology integration at Boys’ Latin Charter School. Professional development opportunities and conferences will be proposed throughout the year and integrated into weekly and summer faculty meetings. The ITS will perform the following tasks to promote technology education:

1. The ITS will compile and provide a weekly list of webinars, online professional development sessions, and journal articles on technology integration.

2. The ITS will assist teachers with online professional development sessions.

3. The ITS will recommend professional development opportunities for Administration and Faculty.

4. The ITS will present professional development for teachers during the summer, Wednesday Faculty meetings, and professional development days throughout the school year.

5. The ITS will offer instructional seminars and webinars for Parents and Students.

6. The ITS will educate Students on laptop responsibility.

7. The ITS will create and integrate an Acceptable Use Policy for Boys’ Latin Charter School.

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.

25 Free Technology Tools for Teachers

Finding free technology tools and teaching aids is a great way for teachers to engage students in learning while keeping their class within budget. The Internet has tons of hi-tech resources for teachers of language arts, history, math, science, art, and music. Here are 25 tools and sites to explore before the beginning of the new school year:

Language Arts

Cast UDL Book BuilderThe Cast UDL Book Builder makes it easier for teachers to build reading skills in students. The site provides tools to create, read, and share digital books.

Shmoop – Shmoop is a unique study guide site designed to help students appreciate and understand literature, history, and poetry. This site is a way for older students to hone and improve literary analysis and writing skills.

Academic Skill Builders – This site is loaded with free online video games for learning language arts, vocabulary, and mathematics. The goal of Academic Skill Builders is to make classroom learning as effective as possible.

TumbleBook LibraryThis reading site can be used with interactive whiteboards in the elementary classroom. TumbleBook resources include a collection of free animated books.

VisualWords – This online graphic dictionary is a great literary tool for building K-12 vocabulary and language comprehension. With VisualWords, students can see an illustration of how words relate to one another through word webs.


DoHistory – DoHistory provides an interactive way for students to understand the skills and techniques needed for interpreting history. This site, which can be used on interactive whiteboards, is based on the 200 year old diary of Martha Ballard.

Race for the Superbomb – Complete with a teacher’s guide, PBS’ Race for the Superbomb takes an in-depth look into the creation and use of nuclear weapons. Throughout this virtual experience, teachers will find films, timelines, maps, and special features.

History Podcast Network – The History Podcast Network offers links to a wide variety of historybased podcasts. Teachers can use the site to find podcasts on the military, U.S. history, British history, periods in history, and much more.

History Classroom – The History Classroom from History.com offers a wide variety of interactive games, learning materials, and tools that teachers can use in the classroom to create a fun, engaging history experience. Resources include study guides, videos and speeches, and lesson plans.

Library of Congress – The Library of Congress offers media-rich tools and interactive opportunities that teachers can use in the exploration of history. This site also features activities, lesson plans, and themed resources.

Math and Science

The Blobz Guide To Electric Circuits – This interactive guide teaches groups of students about the intricate networks of circuits. The Blobz guide is a good interactive teaching aid for math and science classes.

Volcano Explorer – The Discovery Channel‘s Volcano Explorer can be used to teach students about volcanoes. With this interactive exploration, students will get an up-close look at this beautiful yet deadly force of nature.

OceanNow – This interactive expedition into the ocean is a wonderful teaching aid for exploring the science of nature. OceanNow allows you to view video, track maps, and get instant updates.

NumberNut – NumberNut is a free elementary math teaching aid. NumberNut covers everything from shapes and colors to ratios and money math.

Mathgrad This site is a free mathematics podcast that teachers can use as part of their curriculum. Mathgrad offers practical mathematic information in terms that everyday people can understand.

Art and Music

Renaissance ConnectionThe Renaissance Connection can be used to teach students about Renaissance art history. This site connects students with the past through in-depth looks at artworks, innovations, and other visual learning tools.

Artopia – Artopia is a comprehensive art experience for middle school children. This site allows students to examine and learn about styles, principles, and processes in dance, media arts, music, painting, sculpture, and theatre. Teachers can also find a how to guide for incorporating Artopia into their classroom.

ArtsEdge – This interactive website provides teachers with tools and technology for exploring and understanding art. Throughout ArtsEdge, teachers will find resources for teaching, connecting, and exploring several different art forms.

Essentials of Music – This site for music teachers provides materials on eras of music, composers, and a glossary with examples. By using this excellent teaching aid, teachers can provide a vast amount of information on composers and eras through MP3 formatted examples.

ArtPad – ArtPad is a creative and mess-free way for students to express their creative side. Once students are done creating art, the works can be printed or emailed.


GeoEdu – GeoEdu is a free game and interactive atlas for learning worldwide geography. This software is designed for teaching children of all ages.

PlanetInAction.comThis site offers a 360 degree virtual tour of historical and geographical sites. PlanetInAction.com is an interactive alternative to images in books or slide shows.

BrainPop – BrainPop is a fun teaching aid for all subjects. This interactive site uses games and activities to engage students in subjects ranging from art to social studies.

ARKive – This site allows students to explore life on earth through videos, images, and facts. ARKive offers an extensive collection on thousands of species around the world.

The Periodic Table of VideosThe Periodic Table of Videos is a nice teaching aid for illustrating the periodic table. This site utilizes webcast for a visual demonstration of each element.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the About.com Guide to Business School. She also writes for OnlineCollege.org, an online college resource.

Your Technology Magna Carta

It is the first day of class, students arrive and technology is present. Your students salivate at the idea of using a laptop, a smart board and a digital camera. They become attentive and are leaning in on your every word, hoping the next sentence is, “You may now get your laptops!” Students rush the COW and in the matter of minutes there is a dropped laptop, a ‘Z’ key missing and an entire laptop has mysteriously gone off the grid.


It’s easy, you allowed students to use technology without a technology magna carta. Along with your classroom management rules, that you designed somewhere in your student teaching practicum, the technology classroom rules are just as critical. Here are a few ideas that you can incorporate on the first day of class. Not the second day, or the day after you find broke laptops, but the FIRST DAY OF CLASS!

Laptops = Responsibility

When you give each student their laptop for the year, make sure they are all numbered. Before you allow any of your students to get their grimy paws on a computer, give them a number. As soon as you get your class lists, give each student a number that corresponds with a laptop. The first time you use the laptops take the entire class back to the COW (or where ever you house your computers) and explain to them the procedures for holding, walking with and what to do when they get to their desk. Also, explain that you MUST plug in your laptop when you put it back and if you are a neat freak like me, make sure they are all facing in the same direction. When your students return to their seats, call their names out one by one and allow them to go get their laptop. Monitor their retrieval and have students point out any flaws. Finally, remind students this routine must take place daily or laptop usage will be suspended or revoked. Also remind them that any damage to the computer will come back to them.

Smart Board is NOT a White Board

If you have a smart board mounted in your room or even if you have one stationed somewhere in your room, make sure you keep it clean! Keep all dry erase markers away from it and if you use a special stylus pointer, make sure you keep it in your desk or somewhere safe.

If you are going to be absent and your smart board will be in your room, make sure you have specific substitute plans. The worst experience I have had with this is a colleague in my department getting told that his sub wrote the entire days plan on the smart board. Even worse, the sub used a sharpie marker because she could not find a dry erase marker. It was an awful cleanup! From that day forward our technology czar gave every smart board user a sign to display when we were absent. The sign said:




Cameras and Video Equipment

Time management! If you give students a camera to use for a project, make sure you include a column in the rubric that accounts for time. I have observed teachers using camera and video equipment for a lesson and just allowing students to run off with the equipment and take two to three weeks to shoot and edit a video. Ummm…no.

Have students sign out this equipment as well, monitor their time and enforce this rule! Don’t allow them to go over the time and make sure you keep consistent with this.

Acceptable Browsing

This rule should be primarily enforced by your network administrator, however, there are loopholes. Students are more technology advanced than most of us. When you say no facebook, no chatting and no non-academic browsing to a student, they think, “ha, I can get around this.” And they can! How? It’s called a proxy server. If this is an unfamiliar term to you, click the link and read. This proxy server allows students to access most sites that a schools network has blocked. I caught many students using facebook and various chat applications throughout the class. This needs to be a zero tolerance policy. Obviously you cannot see the screens for all of your students (until I patent the double sided laptop screen), but when you do catch them quickly minimizing a window containing facebook, enforce your policy and send them back to the 20th century classroom. Give them a pencil and paper and require them to complete the same project with tools of days gone by.

These are four simple ways to protect your equipment and maintain an efficient working environment in your classroom. With great power, comes great responsibility. Make sure your students understand this power and respect the classroom tools.

My Graduation Speech: One year later

A year ago toady I was the faculty speaker at commencement for the class of 2008. It was a hot summer evening that drew an immense crowd to the attention of the 50-yard line at Springfield High School. I was very nervous. It was the largest audience I ever had at my attention. My parents were there as well. It was the second time they had the opportunity to hear me speak at a high school graduation. The first time was when I presented the class gift as the class of ’98 class treasurer. We presented a tree. I think it has since died.

Recently, I was reflecting on what I said to the class of 2008. Was it relevant to their lives? Did it make an impact? Or was it simply a subtle message mixed with some funny stories? I hope it was all three. If you are out there and you heard it last spring, let me know, I would love to hear what my speech meant to you. Or if you missed it, I would love to hear what you have to say as well.

Good evening Dr. N., Members of the School Board, Administration, Faculty, Parents, Family members and the Springfield Township High School Class of Two Thousand and Eight. Welcome.

I am honored to be here speaking to you today. When I think back to the people that have been in this position before me from Chris S., Ken R., Barry W., Eric G. and the Dali Lama, I can’t help but wonder how I stumbled into this elite company. Who will ever forget the Dali Lama’s speech in ‘86? What a speech I mean really, to be in the company of Mr. R. and his holiness the Dali Lama, you must be doing something right. And let’s not forget Mr. G’s eloquent Beatles metaphors, Mr. W’s resounding “Ooo-Rah!” and Mr. S’s little blue suitcase. These are the moments you will remember. The little moments that tend to get overshadowed by the chaos and hustle of daily life.

When I first heard rumors that I would be speaking at graduation circulating through the halls of Springfield Township High School, I sort of brushed it off thinking that it would never happen or that my students were just plotting an elaborate joke. Then I won. I won a contest I never entered. That never happens! I’ve won one contest in my life and it involved naming a rabbit at a local department store. The rabbit had two black spots over his eyes so I went with, “The Lone Ranger”. That’s not even a good name. Most likely I was the only entrant in the contest.

Nadine Sheahan came into my room and asked me if I would like to speak at graduation and that it was not mandatory, but that I did win a majority of the popular vote. Unfortunately I did not win the majority of delegates needed to secure the nomination…Whoops. Wrong tangent. I smiled and said I would speak. Playing it off like a cool cucumber. Then she left and I realized that I had to write something. I had to write something good. I had to write something memorable. And according to feedback from most students I had to be funny.

So here is my story to you…

In April of 1990 – while most of you were still writing about your first days on earth in your super small baby journal – I was getting prepared for my tenth birthday party. I was all set to have my birthday party at a near by amusement park; my party and my friends. However this was not the case. My mother informed me that I would be having a combined birthday party with my cousin and our celebration would take place at the local skating rink. To most kids at this age, this would be an upgrade in parties, however, for my disproportionate, husky frame, this was a nightmare.

I arrived at my party to see all of my friends intertwined with my cousin’s friends skating around to the hottest pop music of the time, which most likely is now 80% of ring tones on all of your cell phones. Once I wedged my tree trunk ankles into the little boots on wheels, I decided to stand up as if I was taking my first steps as a child. For most of the party I became a fixture on the ledge that enclosed the skating area. Until, I decided to leave my comfort zone. I decided to release my grip on the ledge and push myself out on to the floor. Eureka! I was skating!

Then I decided to get greedy with my skating and move my left leg. My leg went out and never came back causing me to spread eagle in the middle of the rink. My husky size acid wash jeans ripped right down the backside exposing my superman under-roo’s as my body fell to the left. There I was, a giant heap of child lying on the ground, with my jeans ripped down the back.

The moral of the story is that sometimes in life we are forced to leave the ledge and skate outside our comfort zones; the places that are familiar and safe to us. Some of you will never live in Springfield for twelve months out of the year again. Eventually your parents will turn your room into a guest room or that extra work space they always wanted. The comforts will continue to become increasingly unfamiliar. However, you will find new comforts. You will embrace new friends, new rooms and new opportunities. Leave your comfort zone and embrace the time away. Learn from your new comforts and know you can always come home, even though the artist formerly known as your bedroom may look like a newly renovated condo in Ocean City, New Jersey.

I don’t need to stand up here and tell you that life is full of uncertainties that we all must deal with whether we want to or not. How you deal with these uncertainties is how you build character and establish new opportunities that will lead to life experiences. Some of you will eventually encounter the skating party and figure out how to adjust in an uncomfortable setting. And even though you fall several times at your skating party, get back up and try again. Know that it is okay to fail. Getting it right the first time is not always going to happen. Through failure we gain life lessons that translate into opportunities which yield life experience.

When I left high school I was shell-shocked. Because when you’re in high school it is very clear what you have to do to succeed. And I imagine everybody here knows exactly the number of credits they needed to graduate, how many Newsweek articles you had to read for Dr. D., how many minutes you had to speak for Mr. Mac’s Senior Seminar and what tie Mr. E would be wearing on the third Thursday of every month. But the unfortunate, yet truly exciting thing about your life, is that there is no core curriculum. The entire place is an elective. The paths are infinite and the results uncertain. And it can be maddening to those that go here, especially here, because your strength has always been achievement. So if there’s any real advice I can give you it’s this.

High School is something you complete. Life is something you experience. So don’t worry about your grade, or the results or success. Success is defined in a myriad of ways, and you will find it, and people will no longer be grading you, but it will come from your own internal sense of decency which I imagine, after going through the program here, is quite strong.

I will leave you with one final story.

In high school, I had the same English teacher for junior and senior year. Her name was Miss Stellfox and she governed the class room with graceful authority. When she walked into the room everyone would know what to do. She spoke softly, but engaged each student with clarified wisdom. It wasn’t until my junior year that I really appreciated language arts.

After my high school graduation I had my picture taken with Miss Stellfox and I still have it perched on my desk. Most of you ask why I don’t have any other pictures on my desk but the one of her and I. The answer is simple. She challenged me to do something different with my life. She challenged me to see the world through a different lens and convey what I witnessed to others. She dared me to visit another country and experience the beauty of immersing myself in another culture. I vowed to head her advice.

I corresponded regularly with Miss Stellfox while in college and after I graduated from college. She was always intrigued by the happenings in my life. The last time I spoke with her I was discussing my plans after graduate school. I was not sure if I wanted to get into teaching or take another path. This was the last time I would talk to Miss Stellfox.

In October of 2003, she was hit by car while crossing the street. It was a tragic event that happened to the wrong person, who was just beginning to enjoy her retired life. I never got to tell Miss Stellfox that I became an English teacher, but I know she is aware of my choice.

I’m not telling you this for sympathy, but simply, enjoy your days. Especially the days you are about to encounter. Enjoy a day that is completely spontaneous and unscripted. When the obvious choice is to drive; walk instead.

Try something you never thought you could accomplish. Yes, if you didn’t get it by now, this is the message I wanted you to soak up after I showed by Skydiving and bungee jumping videos on the first day of class.

Leave your comfort zone. Tomorrow you will all wake up and wonder what to do. There is no bell schedule tomorrow and no where to be. The summer will rapidly be eclipsed by the smell of fall and a new beginning will be under way.

And finally, call your parents. Call them frequently and listen to what they say. Treasure your time together and always answer their questions about technology with guided patience. Trust me, once you leave the house your parents’ tech support is basically gone. Most likely your first phone call from college will involve your parents asking how everything is going and then you will reciprocate the question. However, their answer will be something along the lines of your father hooked the television up to the typewriter but for some reason, he cannot access the inter-highway.

Enjoy this conversation. Enjoy the small things in life. Enjoy your days. And never throw your children a roller skating party.

Thank you

NOTE: Last names have been shortened to protect the innocent.

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!

Year Round Learning 2.0

Part I: Year Round Learning 1.0

On Thursday, I was in Borders Book Store searching for a good read for my train ride to Boston. (SIDE NOTE PLUG: I went with Arika Okrent’s In the Land of Invented Languages). I went upstairs to find my book and here is the sign I came across…

While this seems like a very efficient and kind offer from Borders Book Store, I was still troubled by this sign. Why? Let’s break it down.

1. The sign is directed at students. “Ask your teacher to email a copy to us” Really! I would love to live in a world where students flock to Borders Book Store, actually have the energy to go upstairs in a book store – send 8 text messages on the way up to the second floor – and get excited about a sign that asks them, the student, to address their teacher about sending them a summer reading list. I know that is a very cynical mind set, but I just don’t see #1 on this sign working.

2. The main problem I have with this though is not about student’s apathy, it is with the entire book exchange process. Last time I checked we were in some sort of an economic downturn. Families are cutting back on vacations, unnecessary expenditures, etc. That said, why doesn’t Borders offer a book exchange program for local schools? Here is my method:

1. Instead of having students provide their reading lists, every school district will e-mail borders a copy. Borders will then set up various kiosks for each local school.

2. Students who read the book last year will have the opportunity to return the book – if they so choose to do so – and get a credit for their next summer reading book.


John is in 9th grade. Last year he read “Things Fall Apart” for his summer reading. This year he needs to read “A Brave New World”. He goes to Borders this year and returns “Things Fall Apart”. Borders gives John half of his money back for “Things Fall Apart”. John finds a used copy of “Brave New World” and buys it at half price.

Kate is going into 9th grade and needs to read “Things Fall Apart” This summer. She goes to Borders and finds a used copy for half price. On the inside cover is the name John.

With emerging technology on the verge of creating devices to replace books, bookstores need to adjust, and make it appealing and practical for students to come in and purchase a book. Promote the content, not the cover!

Part II: Year Round Learning 2.0

School districts need to rethink summer reading and ways to promote learning through the summer. As an English teacher I was always bothered that we were the only department giving out summer assignments. And I realize that it one of the primary components of the English classroom, but why limit reading to one discipline? I also understand that teachers and students need time to “recharge” from a long year, however, recharging, does not mean halting the learning process.

Students and teachers have the opportunity to communicate and learn throughout the summer months. This can be done through many different forums. The process doesn’t require much and should promote learning and engage students when they have plenty of time on their hands.

Here are ways to rethink and promote summer reading or simply “Year Round Learning 2.0”

1. Let’s have our students read a broad array of fiction and non fiction throughout the summer.

A. English – Read selected literature given by your teacher

B. History – Read Newsweek or Time every week and post on one article. Or better yet,read the newspaper!

C. Math – Utilize this great forum set up through Drexel University and post one or several math problems a week for your students to complete, post and discuss on the wiki.

D. Art – Go to this site (Every Photo Tells A Story Blog) every week and post a comment or set up your on blog/wiki like this and create a discussion forum where your students post an image and discuss it! Actually, this site can be used for creative writing as well and works well in many English classrooms. It is a great way to get your students free writing and into the composing groove.

E. Gym – Yes, gym! This marks the first time I am covering gym! Have your students not only exercising their mind, but dropping the remote or mouse and get outside to stay in shape throughout the summer! Show them how to use Run Keeper if they have an iPhone or iPod Touch. Or have them track their running throughout the summer by using Google Maps Pedometer.

2. Let’s get a GoodReads or Shelfari school account set up and make students accountable by requiring them to post once a week on the literature they are reading. Make this happen!!!

3. Create a summer reading wiki for your class. Link it to Goodreads or Shelfari or simply use it to facilitate discussion over the summer. This makes that first day of class ice breaker seem very unnecessary.

Learning is ubiquitous and it should not just be limited to reading literature; it should be open to all disciplines. If we promote the idea of social networks and getting our students to be independent learners, we will have a much easier transition every September. The world is flat and therefore the classroom should be as well. As the “off – time” of the school year commences, let’s really use our time to promote these new technologies and create the year round classroom. It can happen, it will happen and we need it to happen now!

Discussion Forum: How are you getting your students ready for the summer? How do you plan on promoting “Year Round Learning 2.0”?

Too Much Text

Yesterday the New York Times released a piece titled, “Texting May Be Taking a Toll” written by Katie Hafner.

I pondered the title and noticed it was the New York Times’ most e-mailed story. Then I wondered, a toll on what? Is there some new texting tax?

Those were my initial questions. I read on and was blown away by some of the findings. In one case, a thirteen-year-old girl sent 14,528 text messages a month…A MONTH! Her story was featured in a California newspaper and her message frequency shot up to 24,000 due to her new fame. Ms. Hafner also covered issues with the toll texting can take on ones’ thumbs, anxiety and how it effects the classroom. Still in shock I read on and by the end of the article was troubled.

Is texting an addiction? Should the FDA get involved? What is the gateway drug for texting? Letter writing?

As someone who runs a blog designed to evoke collaboration and rapid communication, I find it troubling that there is text abuse happening. I try and promote the idea of good social networking and constant collaboration. In one of my more recent posts, I commented on how the founding theory behind facebook fell under the definition of a social network; the most recent incarnation, is not. Again, the ability to be in constant communication at any time anywhere is something very new to our culture. This craze only recently turned into a frenzy and has become commonplace in our daily lives.

It is hard not to find someone texting or on the phone. I think about this a lot when I am in an airport or a train station waiting by myself. When I look around I see phones aglow with tiny (sometimes large) thumbs pressing on a miniature keypad. What did we do before all of this? How did we ever survive? Well, we talked with strangers, we read a newspaper, and we daydreamed. The idea of wondering or pondering has gone away. Now we just know. We know what everyone is doing at all times of the day, whether it is through facebook, twitter or a simple text. But it is good to know. It is good to pop in on someone via a condensed message. It just needs parameters, especially with students.

So what do we do about this abuse of technology in our students’ lives and in our classrooms?

This is my plan of action if I ever catch a student texting in my classroom…

I notice a student texting

“What could you possibly be texting about in my class? I ask the other students to think quickly…What could “Student A” be texting about that is so important?


Students, who have the ability to send nearly 100 messages daily, fall silent when asked a simple question that evokes some minor creativity! (Confused? Watch Pink Floyd’s: Another Brick in the Wall)

I ramble off a quick-witted top five things “Student A” could be texting about…

1. Telling his agent he can’t do lunch in 13 minutes

2. Marcinek’s class is banal (teaching moment, define banal)

3. Wear R U? (see if they can understand grammatical flaw and explain)

4. U breathing?


Students get a chuckle and the class continues. I make a brief request to silence all cell phones, pagers and typewriters. Again, a brief chuckle. Then I segue back to the lesson. We are discussing Lord of the Flies. What advice would you text to Piggy in Chapter 1? What would Piggy Text to his Auntie? What would Jack text to Ralph? Again, a teaching moment brought on by the abuse of technology. Taking the problem and converting it into a teaching moment works much better than wasting time trying to “catch” a student in the act, take their cell phone and then having to deal with over hyped mom or dad, who will most likely march into your room, pause to text something quick, and then ream you out for taking their son or daughters precious cell phone.

Texting is not going anywhere anytime soon. Schools can “crack down” and “police” it all they want, but it has become a fixture in our culture. It is excessive and being abused, however, it will fade eventually and there will be another form of technology to replace it one day. And most likely there will be studies conducted on it and we will all try and be better parents about it, but still use it ourselves. I can see it now…

New from Fruit Based Computer Company…

iThink (Only to be used with iFeeling and iCreate Applications)

iThink will think for you. It will read this writing for you. It will do your homework and get you an A+.


Fits comfortably in your brain

Can think better than you

Can read 100 words a minute

Will find you a job

It will solve your arguments and help you add friends to your iFriend Network

If texting has become such a major problem in the lives of students then we need to intervene now, even if it involves being the un-cool parent or the un-cool teacher. Treat excessive texting like you would an addiction. Don’t get your kids the unlimited text option and don’t abuse yourself. Remember those great PSAs where the kid learned how to smoke pot by watching his father? Yeah, if you are an excessive texting parent or an ETP, stop being a hypocrite and monitor your own texting before you crack down on the kids. Also, if you are a teacher, leave your phone hidden or out of view

from students. Don’t ever let your kids catch you on it or texting. It just sets a bad example and gives you no leverage when confronting them. Finally, get your kids a text plan that has a cap, make them pay for it and don’t bail them out. I can guarantee you the phone companies are not reading this article with a troubled face.

Facebook for Literature and History

In a follow up to my post on “Why is Everyone So Afraid of Social Networking” I felt that it was necessary to portray some of the positive elements of social networking. One of the foundations of social networking can be derived from psychological principles and the enrichment of the Ego. However, this is simply one side of the social networking process. The core of social networking begins with a common interest and spreads out to satellite communities. However, I feel facebook and myspace are not really social networks. The core of facebook was to bring college students together and you could only join if you had a university address. This core idea has since faded and expanded into a community of people adding “friends” daily and not even really knowing their affiliation. Mind you, this is not a universal trait, but when I polled my students on how many “friends” they have on facebook, there was rarely a number below 500. FIVE HUNDRED! Really, who can keep up with that many birthdays?

The original concept behind facebook falls into the social network definition, but the recent versions are simply millions of people accepting or denying invitations based on, and let’s be honest, looks or profile information, not a common network interest. With that said, I wanted to take the concept of facebook and myspace and apply it to literature or history. This lesson worked nicely in my classroom and feel that it can work in any classroom, even those without any form of technology.

Here is an outline of how the lesson should flow.

Objective: Create a “profile page” for one of the characters in history or literature.


1. Define a social network

2. Define what “facebook” is and what it accomplishes

3. Ask students how they can apply the answers to #2 to the characters we are reading in the novel or history.

a. EXAMPLE: In Lord of the Flies, who would be in Piggy’s social network? What would be his interests? What links might he share? What might be written on his wall?

4. Ask students to create a profile page for one character in the story. They have to include all of the following items:

a. Picture – Let them draw the picture because it promotes creativity and saves paper and printer ink.

b. Basic Information

i. Age

ii. Location

iii. Birthday

iv. Sex

v. Occupation

vi. Religious views

vii. Political views

viii. Favorite Music

ix. Favorite Books

x. Favorite Movies/TV shows

xi. Favorite Quote – This is a good way to get students to elicit an important passage that defines that character.

The best way to display these pages is limit each student or group to one giant post it page. Allow them 30-40 minutes to accomplish this task and make sure they don’t over due it by trying to be overly artistic. While being artistic is wonderful, remind them that this activity is for understanding the literature.

When you are finished with this activity use the sticky portion of the giant post it pages and hang them around the room. Have students present their pages and explain why they chose to design it that way and their rationale for selecting information. Have them explain why Piggy (from Lord of the Flies) is reading Robinson Crusoe.

Remember, this activity should be half creative and half factual evidence from the text. Also, the creative material cannot just be there to gain a laugh from your classmates. EXAMPLE: Jack from Lord of the Flies likes to listen to T-Pain’s music (No offense to T-pain, but it doesn’t fit Jack’s personality).

This activity fosters reading for understanding, understanding characterization and allows students to think critical and creatively when combing through a story. I use this activity every semester and it really brings out a good dialogue about the story and the characters we read. It enhances our class discussions and gives students a familiar device to remember character traits.

The idea of a social network is to build a community from a common interest. In our literature and historical texts, this concept is evident throughout. I think it should be a part of our teaching and aid in building our students’ understanding of characters and historical figures. I hope you like this idea and look forward to hearing feedback from those who have tried it!

Happy Memorial Day to all out there and let us take a moment this weekend to reflect on those who have done so much for this country. Thank you!

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad

Today is my parents’ Anniversary. They have given my brother and I so much support through out our lives and our academic careers. Every year I try and think of a gift I can give them that can sum it all up. Unfortunately Apple does not have an ‘App’ for that. So how do we repay the ones who have given us every piece of their lives, made endless sacrifices and have simply been there? How do we show them our gratitude? For me, it’s simple. I always try and find something that will make my mom cry (in a good way!). With my mother that is never hard. And my Dad loves looking back at old photos, but hates posing for them. So this year I wanted to combine these ideas in a way that both visually and musically capture 32 years of marriage. George Lucas was busy, so I turned to my good friend Animoto!

Yes, I am making another plug for this grand application! I hope since reading my last post on Animoto you have tried it many times over and even come up with an assignment for your class. I cannot stress enough the brilliance of this application and hope that you give it a try. Even if you don’t use it in your classroom, take a few moments to use it to say, “thank you” to those who have “been there” in so many ways.
Thank you Mom and Dad