Monday, September 28, 2009

Edutopia: Ten Top Tips for Teaching with New Media

Free resource from Edutopia

Here is a tips list from Edutopia on ways to make the most of the latest technologies and how to bring new media into the classroom. This is a list of practical ways to prepare students for 21st century success.

  1. Break the Digital Ice
    a. Scavenger hunts, name games, and other introductory activities help teachers and students get acquainted so they can start building a positive learning community. Give this important classroom tradition a 21st-century makeover by integrating digital tools.
  2. Find Your Classroom Experts
    . Early in the school year, survey your students to find out about their digital smarts. You can take advantage of their technical know-how in the classroom, too, if you know where to look for help
  3. Get Off to a Good Start
    Spend some time on self-management strategies now, and your investment will pay off all year long. A wide array of Web tools can help students get better at managing their own learning.
  4. Think Globally
    a. By using online resources and new media tools for connecting, you will help your students see themselves as global citizens. One of the fastest ways to expand your students’ horizon is simply to connect your class with students who live somewhere else in the world.
  5. Find What You Need
    Instead of digging into your own wallet, take advantage of online tools and community resources to find what you need—for nothing. One of the best-known programs is (, Public school teachers post a specific request on the Web site. Citizen philanthropists choose which requests they want to fund. Kids follow up with thank-you notes. What gets funded? Everything from musical instruments to picture books to classroom technology.
  6. Make Meaning from Word Clouds
    Encourage lively conversation about words with the help of tools that turn text into visual displays. Wordle ( is a free tool that turns a block of text, or simply a list of words, into a cloud pattern. Teachers across subject areas and grade levels are finding good uses for this simple-to-use tool. For example, as a prereading activity, you might use Wordle to highlight key vocabulary.
  7. Work Better, Together
    Collaboration is a skill your students will need for the future. To help them work better together today, try using collaborative workspaces in the classroom. Google Docs, part of the Google for Educators toolkit ( /tools.html), is one example of a secure, online place for managing work in progress. Once you help your students set up free accounts, they’ll be able to access their spreadsheets, documents, and presentations anytime, from any connected computer.
  8. Open a Back Channel
    Creating a back channel is one strategy for inviting everyone into the conversation. Think of a back channel as a private chat room just for your classroom. Using an instant-messaging tool like iChat or Twitter for microblogging (, students can pose questions, make observations while watching a video or student presentation, or share a dissenting viewpoint.
  9. Make It Visual
    From document cameras to projectors to interactive whiteboards, these technologies make it easier than ever to use visuals to inspire curiosity, generate brainstorming, and engage diverse learners. Across grade levels and subject areas, good visuals help students build background knowledge as they tackle new concepts. You can use images to set the stage for a story set in a remote place or a far-away time. Primary sources from the vast Library of Congress ( archives, for instance, help students “see” the time period for a story set during World War I.
  10. Use the Buddy System
    a. Teachers can take advantage of a variety of communication tools to share ideas and strategies with colleagues.
    b. Classroom 2.0 ( appeals to both new users of Web 2.0 tools and more experienced practitioners. It’s a good place to throw out a question and get some quick answers.
    c. social-bookmarking tools like Delicious ( enable you to organize, comment on, and share noteworthy resources.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How to Keep Kids Engaged in Class

Many times teachers are looking for ways to help students focus and stay on task. Here is a list of ten smart ways to increase classroom participation with a short example for each.
  1. Start class with a mind warm-up
    a. Ask students to find the mistakes planted in material written on the board.
  2. Use movement to get students focused
    a. Have students join in simple choreographed physical movement.
  3. Teach students how to collaborate before expecting success
    a. Prior to an activity, create a teamwork rubric with students that reviews descriptions of desired norms and behaviors.
  4. Use quickwrites when you want quiet time and student reflection
    a. Have students do short journal-writing assignments to calm down.
  5. Run a tight ship when giving instructions
    a. Before speaking to the class, require (1) total silence, (2) complete attention, and (3) all five eyeballs on you (two eyes on their face, two eyes on their knees, and the eyeball on their heart).
  6. Use a fairness cup to keep students thinking
    a. As part of classroom management, the teacher should create a supportive environment, where students are encouraged to take risks without fear of being put down or teased, then its easier to use your fairness cup.
  7. Use signaling to allow everyone to answer your question
    a. To ensure that all students are actively thinking, regularly ask questions that every student must prepare at least one answer -- letting them know you expect an answer.
  8. Use minimal supervision tasks to squeeze dead time out of regular routines
    a. While passing out papers, ask students to do a quickwrite or to pair up and quiz each other on vocabulary words.
  9. Mix up your teaching styles
    a. To keep students involved and on their toes, try to move from teacher-centered learning to student-centered active learning, and vice versa.
  10. Create teamwork tactics that emphasize accountability
    a. By insisting that students "ask three before me," you make it clear that they are expected to seek assistance from all members of their team before they turn to you.

To gain more insight into these tips please read the entire article at Edutopia:

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Rise of Digital Textbooks

Is your school district ready for digital textbooks as part of 21st century learning? eSchool News looked at school districts who shared their motivations for a digital textbook program.

Since many textbook companies already provide electronic content along with supplemental and remediation content California is compiling a list of free, open digital textbooks that meet state-approved standards and will be available to high school math and science classes this fall. Just having computers in the classrooms isn’t enough; it’s how those computers are being utilized to enhance the learning for all students, empowering them with new skills.

The cost of purchasing textbooks has continued to rise and because the world is growing and changing as such a rapid pace many textbooks have outdated information by the time schools received them, not to mention the weight of some textbooks. Digital textbooks would cost less and could be easily updated through a single download of new information to the computers. Just as the world around our students is continually growing and changing so should the information digital textbooks would provide to the students. Schools wouldn’t have to wait till the next textbook adoption to provide current, real-world information to all students.

Marion County Public Schools in Florida decided to use digital textbooks as part of a three-year technology plan to provide wireless network access to all secondary schools. The school district also felt that digital texts will help keep the information current. As the world and information changes the digital textbooks could be updated quickly by downloading new information.

To read the entire article please go to eSchool News at: