Visual Search Engine: instaGrok

Over the course of the the last few days my students have begun to use instaGrok as a search engine in class. This site conducts searches in a very visual way that invokes students to explore and learn. Often times I see them digging deeper into a search due to the visual nature of the the search engine. The visual nature also seems to spark  the curiosity in students to explore and look deeper into a topic. Another great thing about this search engine is the layout which provides students immediately with key facts, videos, images and other resources. Saving students time in looking for these resources next which they often need to do for many assignments. I was very happy with how engaged my students were and how they seemed to really like to use this search engine.

Check it out for yourself at: http://www.instagrok.com/

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Help Students Find Their “True Swing”!

Wow! Time flys! With the school year coming to a close and state testing taking place I have been a bit overwhelmed. So I apologize for being off task and not posting as regular to this blog.

Over this past week as I have had time, I was reading my regular blogs and came across a post that, of course, I cannot find now which mentioned the movie, “The Legend of Bagger Vance“.  It got me to thinking about this movie and its many different messages. One that I feel is so important for students and teachers is to help students find their “True Swing”.  Their true passion in life.  Every student has a gift in a particular area, and it is so important for educators to help students find that area they are gifted in and have a passion for.  This is the key to success for many students.  Unfortunately, many time students do not find it until later in life and miss out on much of their education.  Watch the video clip below, and as I said to my colleagues at our school lets make this one of our new goals to help students find their “True Swing”!

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Mr. Miyagi Education and “BALANCE”

MiyagiTonight as I was watching the original Karate Kid with my kids I was struck by a conversation between Miyagi and Daniel.

Miyagi: [Daniel has just gotten his driver’s license and Miyagi has given him a car for his birthday] Just remember, license never replace eye, ear, and brain.
[notices Daniel has suddenly gotten quiet]
Miyagi: What matter?
Daniel: I’m just scared. The tournament and everything.
Miyagi: You remember lesson about balance?
Daniel: Yeah.
Miyagi: Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better. Understand?

This of course got me thinking about education.  I know get a life take a break from teaching.  But I really began thinking about the state of education and how the the focus on standardize tests, teacher accountability, funding and how to fix the current state of education seems to be missing the point.  There is no one thing that is going to fix education.  What we need to provide students is a balanced education.  Public education was originally designed to create well rounded citizens.  This is what we need to consider when we begin to think about revamping education today.  We need to develop a system that has balance and is not putting all our emphasis into preparing students for tests but rather preparing them for life.  Jefferson stated that education should be “adapted to the years, to the capacity, and the condition of every one, and directed to their freedom and happiness”.  So as the discussion continues and the debate rages on lets remember what Mr. Miyagi says “Whole life have a balance. Everything be better. Understand?”

Great Links on this topic.

The real problem of U.S. public schools

14 Student Favorite Project Websites

Over the past two years my students have been allowed to create their projects in any format or medium in which they choose.  This had led to some amazing and creative projects that have not only inspired me but opened my eyes to what my students are truly capable of creating. I have noticed however that there seems to be certain sites and programs that they gravitate to every year.  So the following list, are sites that my students seem to use at some point every year and really seem to enjoy.

  1. Glogster: is always a fan favorite since they can add music video and images all in one project.  This virtual poster site is always one that I see multiple times a year.
  2. Photo Story 3: has become a big hit over the past year and a half.  This is a simple video creator that allows students to take a series of images place them in any order and then narrate each image and/or add text to each image. It then generates a movie adding in transitions and panning automatically to the video.  It is simple and creates great short informational videos. They do also have a mac version.
  3. Museum Box: This is a great site for history classes.  Students place items in a box that would help describe a person or event. They can add video, audio, images and text.  This site has led to some great projects.
  4. Goanimate: takes a bit of learning but is a animated video creator that students love to create their projects with.  It generates great animated cartoons that my students have used to explain many different historical events.
  5. Google Search Stories: is a great video creator for quick informational video clips.  It uses the Google search engine and results to tell a story or explain and event.
  6. Picture A Story: allows students to tell stories about history, explain topics or concepts using preloaded images characters and objects.
  7. Flixtime: Is another video creator that allows students to take a series of images ad create great videos to explain concepts or historical events.
  8. Poster 4 Teachers: Is a free program that allows students to create online projects and reports in a poster format.  It also allows them to create simple websites to explain or discuss topics presented in class.
  9. Slideroll: This site allows kids to create simple slide shows to tell a digital story.
  10. Animoto: This site allows students o create professional looking videos projects.  This site is easy and fun for students to use.
  11. Alice.Org:  A animated story creator. That also teaches programming. I have had a few students really get into programming after using this application.
  12. Digital Story Teller: This is similar to Photo Story 3 students can add text and audio to their digital stories.
  13. Kerpoof: Always a favorite site for students to create movies and other digital media.
  14. Fotobabble: This is really a card creator but students have used it in a variety of ways to narrate  a digital story and have used it a segment in other digital projects.

 

Failure = Learning

My son went to a basketball camp recently and at the end they had a contest.  At the conclusion of the contest all of the participants were pronounced the winner.  I was amazed that everyone thought that this was just great.  Everyone received a ribbon and the camp was over.  After the ride home I asked my son to see his ribbon and he replied, “What ribbon?” “The one you got 30 minutes ago at camp” I replied.  “I am not sure I think it is in the car” he replied and walked away.  This response really made me think.  All the parents felt great at the end of camp but the kids were robbed of any real feeling of accomplishment.

As I thought about this event I began to think about the conversations in my PLN.  Over the past week we have been discussing grading and the value of letter grades. When students receive a grade on an assignment what does that really mean to them?  Is the real value and learning moment being lost with this traditional assessment.  Life is learned through failure.  More specifically through the reflection and correction of mistakes.  So why does education for the most part avoid this type of assessment.  This traditional assessment robs students of any real intrinsic value to that assigned task.  Causing students to become disconnected with the learning process.  Having student assess and reflect on their individual tasks is key to developing a true learning environment.  Then this morning I see Diana Laufenberg’s   TED talk on “How to Learn? From Mistakes”.   In this talk she discusses the value and importance of helping students assess their own work and learn from their own and others mistakes. Take a look.

A Must Have Student Resource Page for the Upcoming School Year

Front of a yellow school bus.
Image via Wikipedia

Over the past week I have been gathering resources for the upcoming school year.  As I was doing this I decided to create a page on my blog to post all of these resource for easy use.  Please take a look at these lists and let me know if you know of any others that would be good to add to these resources.  This is constantly changing page so check back often.

Click here to go to the “Student Project Resources” page or click the tab at the top of the page.

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School Resources Part Four: Online Presentation Programs

vector version of this image
Image via Wikipedia

Over the past couple of years students have found a variety of ways to present information to the class.  Many of their presentations were very creative and unique below is a list of some of the programs that they have used in the past and I will be link on my website for the kids this year.  Again if you know of any others or have anything to add about the sites link please drop me a line.

Presentation Programs

1. AuthorStream
2. Empressr
3. Eyespot
4. PhotoStory 3
5. Prezi
6. SlideShare
7. ThinkFree Show
8. Thumbstacks
9. Toufee
10.Zoho Show

11.280 Slides

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A great resource I finally got to look at!

Now that school is out and I have a little time to look at some resources that I had bookmarked. I came across one that I wish I would have looked at during the year.  AVIARY is an excellent free resource to use in the classroom.  This site contains some great tools for students to use in their projects.  Such as image editors, audio editors, music creators, and a variety of other creative tools.  This is a great resource to get students to think outside of the box for their projects and promote creativity.  This site has a community of artists sharing ideas, images and music.  As I perused this site I found the content to be suitable for secondary education and think that it would be a great resource.  As with all communities however, you will want to monitor student activity and work on this site.

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Piloting 30 cell phones in the classroom: Test One “Twitter”

This past week I introduced my students to the 30 HTC Touch Pro2 I am going to test for the remainder of the year.  Each student was assigned their own phone.  After allowing the students a day to familiarize themselves with the phones I decided to try them out.

My first use with the phones, as a resource, in the classroom was to test out Twitter with my Jr. High Students.  As I presented information to them on Washington State history specifically the fur trade and missionaries.  They were allowed to participate in a back channel on twitter. If you are not familiar with back channeling is when people in the audience converse online about the topic being presented to them live.  To do this they use a designated hash tag in Twitter to see and respond to people in the class.  I was surprised by the by the results of my little experiment. Students were very engaged with the topic and obviously the technology.  I was also very surprised to see that they stayed on topic.   Not only were they on topic but they answered each others questions and posed other questions to each other.

On the second day, I decided to post questions to them on the topic and have them respond to those as well.  This really seemed to keep them engaged on the topic being presented.  I even had a student at home who logged on to Twitter and was participating in class from home. I did find that conducting a class and monitoring and posting to Twitter was quite difficult.  Although by the second day, I did see how it could be done.

While I was encouraged and saw the potential of this type of technology use in the classroom I am not sure if this would be a great fit for Jr. High students.  Some of the students a hard time using the phones and got frustrated with the technology.  As a result this pulled them off task as they tried to fix their phone or interrupting class to vent about their phone.  I felt that there is some true potential to using this type of social networking in class.  Will be revamping my use from what I have learned over the past week and giving it another try. Will post the results when I do.

One of the issues that I had was the Twitter client that I used.  I was using a Twitter client called MoTweets.  Does anyone know another mobile application for a windows mobile phone that that works better?  I felt that this client was not very reliable and often very slow to post to Twitter.  If you know of one please leave me a comment.

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Why should I teach like I am in 1970 when it is 2010?

I have been surprised by the emails and discussions that I have had with people over the changes I have made in my room.  I blogged about this change a while back in a post called “Revamping My Classroom: Goodbye Desks Hello Couches and Beanbags“.  In this post I describe how I changed my room to see if a new environment would be more conducive to learning.  While the jury is still out on its effectiveness, I have been very surprised and disheartened by the amount concern this has created among teachers.

As teachers we must change to the times to provide the best learning environment for our students.  If you are not willing to change and try new things, you will not be a successful teacher.  We all have good lessons that we use over and over again, but even these lessons need to be tweaked to meet the needs of students today. Change is something that must happen often.  Changing how we engage students and the tools we use, allows teachers to meet the needs of more of our students.  The idea behind changing my room was to create a more relaxed atmosphere and to have students collaborate more.  I have found that at this point engagement is up and there is no difference in classroom management.  I did not tell my students why I was doing this, but I have had a few students say to me that my room feels more relaxed.

The resistance to change among teachers just does not make sense to me.  If you work with kids, it is a process of trial and error.  This is

Change Education

Education Needs To Change

in essence change.  So why does anytime a teacher thinks outside of the box and challenge the norms of teaching does it cause such a a big stir?  The reaction of adults and other teachers is really strong when they see my room.

“What are you doing?”

“That will never work.”

“Students can’t learn like that.”

These are some of the comments from parents and teachers.  Education has to change. The way I was taught as a kid will not work on a student of today.  So why should I teach like I am in 1970 when it is 2010?

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