Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ten winners snag $1.7M total in digital competition

The MacArthur Foundation grants fund projects is an annual competition to inspire and find new ways to use digital media to support learning. This is the third year of the competition and 10 projects are selected each year sharing $1.7 million dollars. The article stated that the competition was announced in collaboration with President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” initiative, challenging designers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and researchers to create education technology “learning labs” for the 21st century, with digital environments that promote building and tinkering in new and innovative ways.

The winners will use games, mobile phone applications, virtual worlds, and social networks to advance learning in the 21st century, the foundation said. Today’s students interact with other students around the world online, in social networks and video games and according to Connie Yowell, the foundation’s director “the competition helps them to identify and nurture the creation of learning environments that are relevant for kids today and will prepare them for a 21st-century workforce.”

Some of this year’s winners:
  1. Click! The Online Spy School: Engaging girls in STEM activities, peer networking and gaming
    • Combines social networking with a virtual laboratory for teen girls featuring a fictional spy school
    • This game is for learners ages 7 to 11, that encourage their interest in the environment as they explore their surroundings to create, collect, and monitor the health of virtual “bug” species
  3. Fab@School: A digital Fabrication Laboratory for the Classroom
    • Introduces K-12 students to the power of mathematical analysis and modeling, digital fabrication, and engineering by encouraging imaginative and collaborative experimentation, invention, design, and creation.
  4. Hole-in-the-Wall: Activity Based e-learning for Improving Elementary Education in India
    • The e-learning bridges the digital divide by reaching underserved youth in the developing world by installing over 700 internet enabled public Playground Learning Stations across India, Bhutan, Cambodia and Africa. The games promote experiential learning mapped to the prescribed primary curriculum across various subjects.
  5. Mobile Action Lab: Programming Apps for Collaborative Community Change
    • These labs network emerging entrepreneurs, social change agents, and top technologist with Oakland-based youth participants who propose, develop, and market online and mobile apps.
  6. Conservation Connection: From the West Side to the West Pacific
    • This project engaged American youth from the West Side of Chicago and Fijian youth in the West Pacific in stewardship of Fijian coral reefs through direct involvement in the scientific process
  7. MetroVoice: About/IN/
    • Youth in Los Angeles collaborate to write and produce videos and TV screen banners that explore aspects of their families, blocks, streets, and neighborhoods. These messages are then transmitted on TV screens on LA Metro buses transforming the buses into mobile learning labs.
  8. Nox No More: Connecting travel logs with simulation, gaming and environmental education
    • This online gave personalizes environmental education by linking learning to a player’s personal life to illustrate the positive impact of simple, everyday choices to save the planet from carbon emissions by providing the analysis of potential fuel savings by alternative transportation choices
To access the winners of this year’s competition and the past two years please go to: 

One of last year’s winners was Scratch & Share: Collaborating with Youth to Develop the Next Generation of Creative Software that won the BEST IN CLASS: Design. This winner created Scratch & Share as a way to enlist youth and teen online community members as active development partners, and allows them to share projects across mobile platforms, to integrate them into social media including Facebook and Twitter, and to remix them more seamlessly.  This school year our school system introduced Scratch to our students and I was able to watch one fourth grade class using Scratch to create interactive characters. The teacher said the students really enjoyed working with the program. I look forward to hearing from the teacher next school year as the students continue to work with Scratch creating interactive stories, games, music and art.

To read the entire article:

To learn more about Scratch:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Have you heard about TweenTribune?

TweenTribune is a news site for tweens (ages 8-14) that posts daily news stories from a tween’s perspective. The stories are chosen by tweens who work with professional journalists. The tweens can also submit links to stories they would like to share and well as comment on any posted story. The site makes it easy for tweens to find current news stories, some off-beat stories and promotes the habit of reading and being well-informed.

Tweens are not required to submit any personal information and a login is not required for tweens to submit stories or post comments to stories. All comments are moderated and TweenTribune complies with the COPPA - the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act - as outlined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Here’s a list of the topics tweens can choose from:

So how does this work?
Teachers create an account and register their classroom, then, the students sign up. Once the class begins using TweenTribune the site automatically generates the following pages:
  • The stories your class has commented upon
  • Individual comments by each student, on his or her own page
  • All comments by your students, in one report that can be sorted by students’ names, comments, or dates
  • Teachers can moderate, edit, or delete student comments before they’re published
Teachers can also print individual reports showing the comments posted to the news stories. Teachers can also comment on the student’s writing, analysis, or critical thinking. TweenTribune also has a Teacher’s Lounge where teachers can share ideas and lesson plans with other teachers around the world. There’s also a Top Ten Lesson Plans section for teachers.

As summer approaches I encourage teachers to check out this site, especially the Top Ten Lesson Plans to find ways to allow students to interact online with the news, and have forum-like discussions with other tweens from around the world. One teacher commented that she had found classes from Australia, Japan, Canada and Taiwan.

To check out the site:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Top 6 Technologies for the Next 5 Years

According to researchers from the 2010 Horizon Report K-12 Edition, cloud computing and gaming are among the six technologies that will have a major positive impact on K-12 education in the next few years. The article outlines key technology areas for the next five years has been broken down into technologies that will have an impact in the near futures, technologies in the early stages of adoption, and technologies that are further out.

Cloud computing and collaborative environments will have a significant impact on education. In the next two to three years game-based learning and mobile technologies will foster collaboration and engage students more deeply in the learning process. According to the article in the next four to five years augmented reality and discovery-based learning will have an impact on education. Augmented reality is the convergence of various media tools and mobile applications to create “a portable tool for discovery-based learning, enhancing the information available to students when visiting historical locations, doing field work, interacting with real-world objects, and paging through books.”

But there were challenges identified as critical –
  1. Inadequate digital media literacy training for teachers
  2. Out of date learning materials and teaching practices
  3. Lack of agreement on how education should evolve, despite widespread agreement that change is needed
  4. A failure of education institutions to adapt to informal education, online education, and home-based learning
  5. Lack of support or acknowledgement of the forms of learning that usually occur outside the classroom
Many schools have provided more computers, interactive boards, software applications and opportunities for students to enroll in online courses and within the regular school day teachers need to provide learning through real life experiences because students need to see the connections between the world, their lives and the school. Outside of the regular school day students are finding online resources, practicing skills using games and interacting with their peers through social networks. Students shouldn’t have to power down when they enter the school and not be able to communicate with the outside world.

To read the entire article written by David Nagel:

To read the 2010 Horizon Report K-12 Edition:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Using videoconferencing to connect your class to the world

Video conferencing can be used to engage students in learning, build cultural understanding, learn from experts and reach homebound students. Here are several examples.

Connecting Students to Build Cultural Understanding
Teachers assist students in creating a list of questions to ask from any content area to build a better cultural understanding and build relationships with students from other countries. Students can learn about the history of that country, cultural foods, climate, religion, celebrations, language, school and other information from the country.
Check out the innovative project Michael Kaechele did with his 7th grade students using Skype:

Students Learn from Experts
Skype provides the Skype an Author Network for teachers to select an author to speak about their book with students. -
This is a great way to get students involved in reading and be able to ask questions about the book. Another great way to use Skype is to connect to leading experts in the field of science, technology, engineering or math to build interest and knowledge in STEM fields. Here is the link to a blog site that includes the Karl Fish video conference about Transparent Algebra with a group of students -

Think about the community colleges, universities and companies in your area that employ experts in many fields that would be of interest to your students.

Reaching Homebound Students
If the teacher’s classroom has a webcam and computer, and a homebound student has a computer and webcam then the student could be involved with the classroom as much as possible seeing, questioning and participating along with the other students.
How about the student or teacher who is traveling during the school year? Certainly sharing the sites and information about another country would be exciting for the students.

Rules for Videoconferencing
What rules do you need to follow for your school district in regards to using videoconferencing? Here are a few rules to think about before getting started.
  1. What rules—if any—does your school or district already have in place for videoconferencing?
    • Synchronous video conference may take more bandwidth than your school can handle. Check with the technology staff first.
  2. What rules — if any — does your district have for inviting guest speakers into your classroom?
    • What procedures do you need to follow before guest speakers may present to your students?
  3. What videoconferencing application are you planning on using?
  4. What other skills do your students need to learn in order to make videoconferencing a productive learning experience?
    • Pre-planning and preparing your students before the video conference is important. Consider these ideas:
      • Possible handout of do’s and don’ts with regard to questions, how they present themselves on camera, use of only first names, etc.
      • Formulate a list of questions with the students that will be used during the conference to keep the conversation focused.
      • How will be possible answers the students receive from the guest speaker change the way students thought about an issue or the work they are doing?
      • How will students report what they’ve learned?
  5. How will you go about finding partners to work with?
    • Just knowing there are thousands of teachers who would like to connect with other classrooms should encourage teachers to think about using videoconferencing as part of their lessons. Teachers need to decide on the learning outcomes from the video conference when considering a guest speaker.
      • To help students better understand the challenges from third world countries think about South America, Africa or Southeast Asia.
      • To help students better understand the differences in life and cultures think about capitalist or socialist country, possibly Europe.
  6. Where do you look for guest speakers and videoconferencing information?
To read the entire article from LeanNC by Bill Ferrite, please go to:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Skype and Video Conferencing

I recently read the article, Web Conferencing Finds Elementary School Niche by Ian Quillen and wondered why more teachers didn’t include Skype in their lesson planning. So I began to look for Skype resources for teachers by beginning with a link from this article.

Web Chat Challenge -
The teacher used Skype to stay in touch with a student who moved to another state.  Skype has grown into a great learning experience for her students. Since this initial experience the teacher has set up meetings with other third grade students in all fifty states. The students keep a journal of what they learn and place stickers by each state visited on a map. Besides learning about the similarities and differences between their state and the visited state, students are also learning about time zones, how to communicate through technology, networking and teamwork skills according to Cherrie MacInnes, the teacher.

Skype an Author Network.
This site provides directions for teachers and librarians and for the authors. Teachers can look through the list of authors, select an author and preview a session from the author. The site offers a discussion forum, photos and videos. This is a great site for teachers and librarians to check out.

Skype - The Big Blog -  and
Good site to learn about Skype, how to download and setup Skype for your classroom.

The Fire Roars, Our Skype Concert-
During a Travis Wells’s Spring Instrumental Concert three composers from the pieces being performed talked with the performers, conductor and audience. What a great way to connect students to the composers.

Also take a look at the resources we have listed from our wiki site:

And the parent asks, “What did you learn on Skype today?”
This site provides several great reasons for using Skype in the classroom including a boy recovering from leukemia who attends class everyday from home using Skype.

Over the summer is a great time to find other schools interested in using Skype. Check out this Skype directory of interested schools in the United States.

Students can now connect with others around the world, explain and show what they’ve learned and/or Skype a musical performance to other students. Bringing the world to every child in every class through Skype is an exciting way to learn.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

E-Learning: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous

What are the advantages of anytime, anywhere learning over a fixed time for a class?  I recently read an article from Education Week written by Ian Quillen that looks at the benefits of synchronous and asynchronous learning.

Here are the main points about Synchronous e-learning
  1. Problem-Solving - depending on the subject, such as math and science, having immediate feedback could benefit the students.  According to Christa Ehmann Powers, the vice president of education at Smarthinking, a Washington - based online-tutoring service, certain subjects are more relatable and appropriate for synchronous work. 
  2. Discussion Flow - the teacher may be needed as an active mediator and when students are hesitant to speak out in class the teacher can keep the discussion on track and moving.  According to Myk Garn, the associate director of the educational technology cooperative of the Atlanta-based Southern Regional Education Board, a skillful instructor needs to insert themselves into the asynchronous discussion. 
  3. Younger Students - when students lack keyboard skills they could benefit from synchronous instruction in a webinar format according to John Watson, the primary author of  Keeping Pace With K-12 Online Learning, a study from the Evergreen Education Group, a consulting group based in Evergreen, Colo.
  4. Teacher Access - teachers can provide one-on-one access for students before, during and after school hours by video, online chat, texting or email.
  5. Standardized Testing - many virtual courses require standardized testing and to maintain a test's integrity a synchronous online format is best.
  6. Clubs and Socialization - many clubs and organizations that are offered at a school can be offered through real-time online meetings. 
  7. Synchronous Archives - a video lecture, live chat or webniar can be archived for all students to access.
Here are the main points about Asynchronous e-learning
  1. More Time - students can access the course at anytime and spend as much time as needed to master the course material.  Teachers and students engaged in discussion may continue the discussion after the class ends through an online forum.  The class day is no longer depended on the school bell according to Liz Pape, the president and chief executive officer of the Virtual High School Global Consortium, based in Maynard, Mass.
  2. Critical Thinking - since writing can be personal, the asynchronous setting may be best and the student must take more ownership in the work.  The asynchronous setting also gives students more time to think critically before responding.
  3. How Students Live - students have social lives through texting, Fackbook, online chats and e-mail chains which means students want to access information and answers anytime from anywhere.  Teachers are able to give feedback and tutorial help through text messages, the phone or an audio online format. 
  4. Less is More - online instructors are usually proactive in communicating with the students to better understand their needs and are better able to keep students on task.
  5. Global Standard Time - having students from other countries enrolled in a course brings a new prespective to discussions especially on world issues, geography and history.  The problem is finding a common time for synchronous instruction. 
  6. Asynchronous Doesn't Mean Slow - the difference between synchronous and asynchronous communicatioin is less today because of the new communication platforms that students and teachers use and the availability of computers at school and in the home. 
When you think about it an e-mail is asynchronous communication and instant messaging is synchronous communication.   What truly makes the difference in synchronous and asynchronous learning is the attentiveness of the teacher and the students rather than the method of instruction , that dictates the time lapse, according to Mr. Watson. 

To read the entire article from iNACOL please go to:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Keeping Your Classroom C.R.I.S.P.

As we are nearing the end of another school year many teachers may be wondering how to keep students focused in the classroom until the last day of class. Let me highlight an article I recently read entitled Keeping Your Classroom C.R.I.S.P.

Here are five things teachers can do to promote learning – Contextualize, Review, Iterate, Summarize and Preview. Let’s look at each one.

Instead of beginning class with “Today we’re going to,” think about ways to provide a focal point from the lesson “Today we’re going to 1), 2), and how students will accomplish the lesson. From this opening statement teachers could provide additional information on the concept to be taught, or engage students in a mini-lecture. The idea is to help students build a knowledge base and transferable skills in that subject.

Once students have grasp the new knowledge begin linking the lesson to previous lessons to help students build a broader knowledge base in a subject. Students learn and retain more when those knowledge connections are made and then expanded.

During the lesson teachers should continually emphasize the fundamental concepts the lesson is built around. By asking students to reiterate the lesson, or the steps within the lesson, students will build deeper learning experience. It’s also helpful for teachers to design assessments to reflect this approach instead of just multiple-choice or fill-in-the-blank type tests.

Teachers need to stop within the lesson to allow time for students to summarize the main points of the lesson. Taking time to summarize during the lesson helps students to see how each point of the lesson builds the overall concept being taught.

Before ending the lesson for the day teachers should take time to preview what students will learn the following day guiding students to read ahead to look for specific points that will be covered the next day. This continues to help students bridge previous learned material with the lesson for the next day.

The C.R.I.S.P. approach will provide better organization, unity and flow to the lesson. This approach also helps students have a better grasp on how each part of the lesson becomes part of the whole concept begin taught by providing better understanding and retention.

To read the entire article please go to: