Education is like a math problem TEACHER + STUDENT + PARENT = SUCCESSFUL EDUCATION.   To get the correct answer you must have all of the data correctly imputed into the equation.   If you are missing any one of the three, your answer will be incorrect.  In education today we seem to be focusing on one aspect of the equation – the teacher.  While this attention is good and the ideas being generated are beneficial, it is still only part of the equation.  Often times we over look the role of the student and parents in this equation.

Over the past week, I have had three different conversations with students that have made me ponder this topic.  My conversation went like this.  “Billy – what’s going on buddy? I’m not getting much in the way of work from you.”  Billy responds with, ” Yeah I know.”   “Well Billy if I don’t get some work ,how are you going to pass this class?”  Billy then responds with, “I guess I won’t.”  “Don’t you want to be able to get a good job and provide for a family in the future?”  Billy responds with, “Yeah but my parent never graduated, and they do just fine.”  The equation in this instance is broken.

Often times educational reform does not consider the needs of the students and the culture in which the student lives.  These are two critical components of the educational equation.  Without addressing these needs, we can fire every teacher, create new laws, and new curriculum; but we will still get the wrong answer, because we have only addressed one aspect of the equation.  All of the government plans and programs address the teacher and set goals for schools, but none of this can be achieved if we do not address the needs of the students and our country’s view of education.

Everyone agrees that education is a priority in our culture.  But is it truly?  If it is a priority, then we as a society need to do whatever we can to support and improve education.  Currently, all we see are cuts  in education, so obviously this is not a priority.  If  it was, we would look at other areas in budget to make cuts.  This is not to say that we should not make any cuts in education, but rather if it was a true priority cuts would be minimal.  To reform education we must address all of the parts of the equation.

If we as a society truly support education, then we need to show that we do.  When we look at educational reform we must look at student needs, society’s view of education, and teaching standards and address all aspects of the equation to truly alter our educational system.  We have to remember the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  True reform must contain all of the elements of the equation to truly be successful.

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Blogging an Essential Part of a Successful Learning Environment

Over the past year I have begun to use blogging in my classroom as a way for students to communicate with each other and me.  I have found that it can be an engaging and useful tool for students.  I often use blogging to have students answer sample test questions  to prepare for their upcoming state standardized tests.  I have found that students seem to put forth more effort into their writing in this type of medium.  Students also seem to really enjoy looking at other student work and commenting.  So I have begun to put out grading rubrics to the students and have them grade each others work.  This has led to some heated discussions about different topics that have been incredible learning environments for these students.  This has also helped them prepare for their testing by making them well aware of the grading criteria on our state standardized tests.

The key to blogging in the classroom seems to be timely responses to their posts.  As long as students feel that someone is reading their posts they see a real world connection and this really seems to motivate them to keep writing.  Blogging as become a big part of my classroom learning environment and one that I will continue to use in my classes.  Here are some great resources for more information on blogging in the classroom.  They will provide you with ideas and how to write  and comment on blogs.   Blog Basics; Blogging Support

If you are looking to try blogging in your classroom here are some great places to setup a class blog.

  1. This site is designed for elementary and middle school students.  It allows the students to create unique blogs with no email addresses.
  2. Class Press This site does require a reasonable yearly fee.  They however do monitor the writing and will send you emails with questionable content. This site also also allows kids to create their own unique blog.
  3. ClassBlogmeister:
  4. Edublog:
  5. 21Classes: This site does require a monthly fee but provides lots of storage and tools for your students.
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The First Two Steps to Ensure a Successful Lesson

The bell rings and students are beginning to filter into your classroom.  As a teacher you need to grab their attention and refocus it from  previous classes and what just happened in the hall, on to your subject.  This is often a daunting task and one that can seem impossible at times.  I have found two strategies that have been quite effective in getting students focused and  ready to learn in class.

Step one: “Baiting the Hook”

First have a learning target on the board everyday for them to read.  How often as a teacher do you hear, “What are we going to do today?” or my favorite,  “Are we doing anything in class today?”  After you have trained them to look at the whiteboard for the learning target they will form a habit of look for and reading the learning target each day.  This will start to refocus the students on your subject and topic of the day.  I tell my kids to help me out and remind me if the learning target is not on the whiteboard.

Step Two: Reeling Them In

The next thing is to captivate their attention.  This can be done through many different types of bell-ringing activities.  One of my favorites is to use a movie clip to get them talking about the topic of the day.  This catches their attention and ca be very effective in engaging your students.  A couple of great sites to use are MOVIECLIPS ( and AnyClip (  These sites give you short clips on many different subjects from modern films that always get the kids excited and engaged.  There are many different types of bell ringer activities here below are some links to a few lists of activities that have been useful to me in the past.  Doing these two steps at the beginning of each class is an effective way to refocus your students and get them learning in your classroom.

Here is a list of some ideas for bell ringer activities:

  1. —Political Cartoons
  2. Historical and Current —Video Clips —
  3. Online —Games and Activities —
  4. Art and Images
  5. —Pre-assessment & Review —
  6. This Day in History —
  7. Short Readings

Other Links I have found useful:

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Five Project Resources My Students Love

One of my major goals for this year is to allow students to present what they have learned in class in any form in which they feel comfortable.  At the beginning of the class I provide a list of many different resources from which they can choose.  Students are also given the option of creating their own way of presenting their information, provided they first obtain teacher approval.

What I have noticed is this: Most students start with writing papers, since that is what they are use to and with which they have had the most success.  When they are starting their third or fourth projects, I have found that they are looking for new and creative ways to present their information.

Over the past semester these five resources seem to have become quite popular with my students.  (See the list below.)  When I ask why they chose this medium to use, they often state that it is because they are allowed to alter the look and feel of the project.  It seems that any resource that allows them to alter its look and apply/create a personal touch really captivates their attention; it motivates them.  Use the links below to check these resources out for yourself.  See if they may fit your needs.

Along with these tools to present and or demonstrate their knowledge,  I have had the students help create the grading rubric.   This has been very powerful in the classroom.  I have also been surprised at how much harder their rubrics seem to be than the ones I would have created.  But allowing the students to have a say in the grading criteria has been a great motivator for them.

Below is  an example of toonlet.  Toonlet is a cartoon creator that some of my students discovered and really enjoy.

Resource Links:

  1. Toonlet:
  2. Class Press:
  3. Xtra-Normal:
  4. Glogster:
  5. Prezi:

Five Resource my Kids Love!

Six Resource my Kids Love!
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Wordle and Glogster Lesson Plan (A Real Eye Opener!)

Over the past couple of days there was a lot of concern about the web cloud site Wordle.  The buzz was that they were in legal trouble and had to close down their site.  Well, since that time it seems that they have worked out their issue and are back up and running in all of their glory.  With all of the discussion about Wordle it got me thinking about lessons I have done with word clouds and decided to post one of my lesson ideas.

At the beginning of the year teachers always want to ge to know their students.  Many of us want to start incorporating technology as soon as possible to are students as well.  Well, this lesson idea fits both bills and is a great way to begin a new semester or year.  First students write a brief biography about themselves.  Once they have written this biography they paste it into Wordle or other web cloud generator and create a word cloud.  Then they take this word cloud and put it into Edu.Glogster and create a Glog about the top five words in their biography.  Their Glog will have the word cloud centered on the Glog.  Then students will take the top five words in their word cloud and explain why they are the most important with images or text.  Once they have created the Glog we then share them in class.  This is a great way to know your students and for the students it can be an eye opening experience.  Resources for this lesson idea are below.

Word Cloud site Resources:

Link to Glogster

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Fun and creative ways for students to make online video projects

Over the past year I have begun to transform my class into a project-based classroom.  This constructivist approach to learning has allowed me to really incorporate technology into the classroom.  Students are creating projects that contain many different technologies, and I have been able really become a type of consultant in the classroom pointing out technologies and information for them to use in their projects.  It is my students who have  become quite creative with their projects, and they have begun using a variety of online resources to create videos to show their learning.  They have created all types of videos from short animated videos to fully edited movies.  I have kept a list of the many different sites students have used to create their projects for other classes.  Take a look.

Online video resources for students:

  • Memoov: A unique video site based in Israel. They provide the characters and settings and you provide the audio for each of the characters.  These videos can be created and shared on a variety of websites like YouTube and others. My students found it simple to use and very intuitive. They were able to create interesting videos in just two days.
  • Voki Voki allows users to create talking avatars to present information.  You can use your own voice or choose from voices provided for you.  This is an easy and fun website to use.
  • Go!Animate: This site allows you to create animated stories to present information or quick stories.  They have many different options and objects to choose from and are constantly adding new material.
  • Xtranormal: This is a Text-To-Movie site that takes a typed script and animates the voices for you.  Then you add expressions and movement to the characters and create unique videos.  My students love to use this website to create videos. However,      there can be questionable material on this site at times.
  • Dvolver This site allows the user to pick a scene and characters then type in the dialogue to create your videos.  Simple site with limited scenes and characters,      but with some creativity students can create some great videos.
  • Zimmertwins Like devolver this site allows students to create animated cartoons with written dialogue.  Again, it has limited scenes and characters just like devolver.  The quality of the final movies is quite good.
  • Digital Films Like the two sites above, this site also creates animated cartoon movies with written text. I have not had any students use this one yet, but it seemed fairly simple to use when I took a quick look at it.
  • Aniboom Aniboom allows users to create animated characters and create aniumated stories.  This site is a little more complex than others listed here, but it can be used by Jr. High and High School students.
  • Fluxtime Like Aniboom, this site creates animated cartoons and scenes; however, it does have a bit of a learning curve and may take students some time to learn how to use it.
  • Animasher This is a fun site that allows you to create a variety of different types of animated movies with real video and 2 dimensional pictures.  This is lots of fun, and students can really get creative with this website. Students can even load their own video and images.

Video editing resources online:

  • EditorOne: EditorOne is an easy online editor that allows students to create videos online and share them with a variety of sites.  This is very easy to use and has some great video clips for students to use.
  • Photo Peach: This is an online slideshow creator that students can use to quickly and easily create slideshows to present information or a story.  It’s a simple design and easy to use.  Students can make these slideshows in a matter of minutes.
  • Animoto: This is a video editing website that allows users to use their own images and video to create their videos.  This website does produce high quality videos that look professional and are well put together.
  • Stupeflix: It’s another video editing site that integrates well with Flickr and Twitter.  This site, like the others, allows you to create your own videos with your material.
  • Masher: Masher provides you with a lot of different footage to use along with your own material.  Also you can add a variety of special effects, and you can share this with many different online services.

Other visual resources:

  • Tiger Film Dub This site is a lot of fun!  You add the subtitles to Chinese movies.  Kids loved playing with this site, but often got off task. This was so much fun that I often got off task with them as well.  This could be used for projects, but be careful there is some content that is not appropriate.
  • Classic TV I found this site on Larry Ferlazzo blog, and it goes right with Tiger Films Dub above.  This site provides you video that you can dub over with your own message.  Again, lots of fun, but students can get off task really easily.
  • Overstream This is another site that allows you to add subtitles to foreign movies and to present your own satire or message.  Kids love to play with this site and can get very creative.
  • ToonDoo This site allows students to create cartoon strips to present an idea or concept.  It’s a neat way to see if your students truly understand the topic discussed in class.
  • Big Huge Labs Here students can create movie posters to show that they understand concepts presented in class.  This is a lot of fun, and, while limited in scope, students can use this to create some neat projects.
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How to: Turn any Webpage into a PDF in one Click!

This is an online tool that has become very useful in my classes. Located at this tool will simply convert any website into a PDF file with one click. This will allow you to print sites for your students to read and it maintains all of the margins and formats. All you need to do is copy and paste the URL in the address bar on the webpage and click the icon at the end of the address bar and you are done. Great tool!

Web address to this site is