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Category Archives: School Resources

Thanks to Pedro from KIPP Team Academy, I’ve stumbled upon one of the best tech integration resources I’ve found yet. This website, called School 2.0, is a predesigned plan for schools of the future.

The website contains a free complete toolkit with a TON of resources to help you begin implementing in your own classroom, but also to help get your school leader and other teachers on board. There’s even reflection activites to help team members identify where they stand now in terms of technology, and where there’s room to grow. There’s team development activities meant to help facilitate the conversations schoolwide so actual implementation can begin.

Your school might not be ready for all this at once, but at the very least it can help you clarify your own visions for your classroom, and help to begin conversations schoolwide.

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The more incredible education blogs I become addicted to, the more I am amazed by those educators who are able to make time to post so frequently. I’ve clearly fallen a little behind as I’ve gotten completely wrapped up in my most recent unit. I’ve taken David Warlick’s idea of personal learning networks that he fascinated me with at NCETC in March, and have adapted it into 8th grade objectives. Not only has it pushed me as an instructor both in design and implementation, but it’s also allowed me to be consistently wowed by what 8th graders can produce when given the tools and a little independence. Our MySpace discussion was just one example.

This week we’ve expanded our discussions to the wonderful world of VoiceThread. For those of you who have never heard of it, it’s an incredible online tool that allows you to build conversations around pictures and videos you upload in a slideshow format. The coolest part is that you can comment with both text and voice. So on many voicethreads you have actual conversations occuring. No microphone on your computer? No problem! Use your cell phone! The possibilities of what you can do with VoiceThread are limitless, with some examples being:

1) Documentation of school trips that allows students to add their own perspectives/memories for each picture.

2) Discussions around historical pictures/pieces of artwork.

3) Classroom videos that can be observed by other teachers for ideas, or so others can offer feedback and suggestions to improve instruction.

4) My most recent favorite… Dramatic readings of different kinds of poetry and plays. This is what we’ve been working on most recently in class. I’ve created a slideshow with three different photographs, each representing a poem (or scene) they’ve read recently in English class. Then students have the opportunity to record their interpretation of the poem as they perform it. I’m told you can embed VoiceThreads in blogs similiar to YouTube videos, but seem to be having technical difficulties with that recently, so I’ll just include the link. Hopefully I can fix that soon… Check it out and feel free to leave comments for the students! The more they realize they have an audience, the more I see the desire in class for them to improve their work, so feedback is MUCH appreciated 🙂

2012’s Poetry

Their thoughtful (most of them) comments generated around a collection of pictures

Blogs as coffee shops…

My thoughts on blogging mentioned yesterday were perfectly summarized in this brilliant blog post from a blog titled “Markitude: Commentary on the trappings of my life”.

http://markitude.wordpress.com

Thought I’d include it here:

People congregate to share ideas.

In urban areas, the coffee shop maybe a favored location to exchange ideas with people in person, or more frequently, online. Forums have been an online fixture, along with newsgroups for many years, and people with common interests tend to gravitate to these areas. Blogs traffic can come from a variety of sources, referrals from other blogs, search engine keywords that occurred in a post, or through referrals from the blog hosting site (hot blogs, next blog, top blogs, etc) based on traffic volumes. As a small sidebar, this latter method tends to be self fulfilling in that once a blog makes it to that list, simply being on the list will drive more traffic. If the blog is interesting, it will stay on the list in seeming perpetuity, ala Scobleizer. If not, then it will cycle through once all the casual clickers have found it, taken a peek and moved on.

Those that stay, and come back day after day appear to do so because of an affinity to the author or the subject of the blog. Posts start a conversation between the blogger and any audience member who chooses to comment, as expected. But then something more interesting can occur. Commenters, begin to have discussions amongst themselves within the comment threads, leaving one comment related to a previous comment rather than the original blog entry. It’s not just a many to one relationship with the blogger, but rather interaction amongst the commenting community. When the same small group of commenters are present day in and out, does the subject blog begin to take on the aspects of a social destination, a virtual coffee house? Are the visiters there for the coffee, or the venue and other patrons?

AKA: Create Your Own Newspaper

I was lucky enough to have two teachers visit my classroom today who were pretty inquisitive about both the hardware in the room (hard to ignore a beautiful SmartBoard with a wall mounted projector) and the content the students were tackling. One of them questioned if I was a ‘blogger’, and, while totally unintentionally, implied that there were certain people, or types of people, who blogged. I became totally intrigued by the perceptions of the ‘outside’ world as to who blogs, and for what purpose.

While I think it’s true there used to be a very small, specific community of people who blogged (in my mind they looked like your traditional techie who sat in a dark room and never left their computers, however not having been a blogger until recently I’m not entirely sure who they were), the idea of worldwide blogging is so powerful when thinking about communication, so many more have jumped aboard. KIPP NEEDS TO BE NEXT!

There are so many great things going on in so many of our schools across the country, but minus a few cross-campus visits every year, and of course KIPP Summit, our ideas and innovative approaches to teaching our content often stay within our schools. While KIPP teachers are famous for working hard, we need to start taking advantage of technology to work smarter. Here’s where blogging comes in…

There are these brilliant inventions available for free on the web now called AGGREGATORS. Many of you may even be using one and not know it (think iGoogle). They have the power to organize all your favorite websites and blogs on one convenient page (that can also easily be set as your homepage) and feed you new updates as soon as they’re posted. This allows you to see new blog posts to all your favorite blogs in a matter of seconds, all on one page. Now bear with me here…

Picture if a lot of the brilliant minds leading KIPP schools, and teaching in KIPP schools, started blogging. Doesn’t have to take much time, even small posts with random thoughts about school culture, middle-school social life, and brilliant misunderstandings that hit you mid-lesson and you wish you had prepared for. Now KIPP teachers nationwide open up Internet Explorer (or Firefox or Safari for all you brilliant Mac users) and see your post pop-up. Maybe it doesn’t relate to them or doesn’t interest them, so they ignore it. But for many blog posts, there will be many teachers who are immediately intrigued by what they see and venture to read the whole post. Now they add their own comments to the post, and BAM! A discussion is born. So easy, and SO beneficial to everyone involved. The blogger now has an audience outside their own school. The reader now has resources and conversation bringing in different perspectives. Either way, we’re communicating with each other, and continuing to think about how we can do what we do better. Isn’t that what we’re all about? Why should it be limited to 4 days each year at Summit?

While it’s easy to set up, and you’ll quickly fall in love, the bigger picture of cross-school communication can’t happen in a meaningful way until we get more (ideally 100%) of our teachers aggregating, and many of our leaders and teachers blogging. So here’s where to start:

http://www.netvibes.com (if you want to check out my public aggregator to see what it looks like when it’s set up, here’s the link to the one I use in my classroom with my kids. http://www.netvibes.com/saltinerockstars Saltine Rockstars is the name of our Tech Team, and the tab called Saltine Rockstars is a collection of all their blogs… I HIGHLY encourage you to check them out and leave comments… they need help understanding there IS a real audience out there! There’s also some education blogs on there to get you started… I’m working on making a public aggregator for KIPP this weekend, so I’ll put that up here when it’s created)

Here’s a quick video to show you how to actually subscribe to blogs/websites once you’ve set up your aggregator/reader. This one is showing Bloglines (another aggregator), but it works the same way:

If you want to start a blog, I use http://www.wordpress.com, but there’s a ton of other providers out there.

Also helpful, http://blogsearch.google.com/ can help you find a variety of blogs to get your aggregator started.