Tuesday, May 28, 2013

TED Talks

I love TED Talks! Really smart people talking about inspiring things. The TED Talks website is a wealth of information. The front page of TED Talks shows the videos that are currently popular. But you can also search by subject or broad topic like inspiring or funny or beautiful. Or you can use the Surprise Me option and select an amount of time and broad topic and have TED find a video for you.

Here is one of my favorite TED Talks by a 12 year old app developer.

This TED Talk would be perfect to use in the classroom. Show the video and have the kids start thinking about an app they could develop. Have them blog about the app they would develop.

This video would be a good one to use in a Science class. This video features the three winners of the 2011 Google Science Fair. All three happen to be amazing young ladies. Also a great video to show girls to show them that a career in science is possible.

I would love to see teachers use TED Talks in class. Use the video as a blog starter. Or find a video that would be a good lead in for a project or unit you do in class. There are thousands of videos on TED Talks so you should be able to find something to work for your classroom!

TED Talks also has an excellent iPad app.


Pinterest. Some people love it and some people hate it. I was a Pinterest holdout. I just couldn't see how I could use it. I was already using LiveBinders to save my favorite sites and I just wan't sure how Pinterest would help me.

And then our official NPS Pinterest Queens, Julie Morgan and Lori Coffin, showed me how they were using Pinterest. All of their school resources are housed in Pinterest. They pull up their Pinterest boards every day at school, and voilia they have at the touch of their fingers everything they need to use in class. They have brain break videos and SMART Board lessons and craft websites and lesson plans all housed in Pinterest.

Now Julie and Lori are two of the most techie teachers we have in NPS and I respect them greatly. And I thought if they are using Pinterest, then maybe I should give it a look. So I finally started an account and started pinning. My boards are all for educational purposes. I don't have any boards for recipes or clothes or crafts, not that there is anything wrong with that. I just wanted my focus to be educational.

I have found Pinterest to be a great way to organize things. If you are visual person, you will really love Pinterest.

I was inspired by @annfeldmann1 and the #tt4t team at Bellevue Public Schools. Ann teaches a class on Pinterest and her district has group boards that the teachers in the class pin to. I thought this was a great resource for her teachers so I decided to create a Pinterest account for Norfolk Public Schools. Panther Pinners has really taken off. We have 26 people so far that can pin to the district boards. We have 87 followers of our boards. The goal is to build a place where anyone in the district can come and get great ideas. You don't have to be a member of Pinterest in order to search the boards and look for ideas.

So don't dismiss Pinterest. It can be a great place to get all sorts of ideas for your classroom!

ClassBadges: The New Version of Smelly Stickers

ClassBadges is an interesting site trying to take advantage of the buzz word "gamification." Teachers can set up an account at ClassBadges and award students badges for completing different tasks. Here is a video overview of ClassBadges.

When I first saw the site I thought this would be fun and motivating for students. One thing I didn't think of which has been brought up by others in the Summer Tech Challenge is keeping up with awarding badges if you have large numbers of students. So I am now encouraging teachers to start small, with maybe one class and see how it goes. Are your students motivated when they receive a badge? If they are, then maybe continue to add classes.

One feature I would like to see added to ClassBadges is the ability to embed the badges on a blog or a website. I think if students could take the badges they have earned and show them off on their blog or website, they might be motivated to earn more badges. What do you think? Do you think the ability for students to show off their badges on their own blog or website would add to the motivation factor?

As I'm writing this, I am reminded of my JH math class. Back in the 80's, scratch and sniff stickers were all the rage. Our JH math teacher would put these stickers on our papers. Many of us would then transfer the stickers to our notebooks so that our notebooks were covered with stickers. It was a fun way that he found to motivate us and we wanted to show off our stickers. I guess ClassBadges is the 2010's version of smelly stickers!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

My Twitter Journey

Okay, time for a confession. I was a Twitter holdout. I joined Twitter in June of 2012 so I am coming up on my one year anniversary. And I have to say Twitter has completely changed me as a professional.

So why the holdout? Well, I guess like a lot of people I thought Twitter was a waste of time. I thought it was all about Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher and celebrities and what people ate for dinner. I didn't understand that there is an entire community of educators, of professionals on Twitter and that they use Twitter to grow and to learn.

With Twitter, it is all about who you follow. If you follow nothing but celebrities, you will see a lot of things that will waste your time. But if you follow educators who are passionate about what they do, you will learn so much. I honestly have no idea how I did my job and stayed current on things before Twitter. I learn something new on Twitter every single day. I can't think of any other medium (email, listservs, etc) where that is true for me.

At first when I joined Twitter, I kind of felt like the kid on the playground who is watching all the cool kids play and is longing to be asked to join in. But I stayed with it. I answered questions when I could. Offered advice and joined in on conversations whether it was asked of me or not. And slowly, I started to build followers and gradually people began asking me for advice. I was now one of the cool kids! It felt awesome when someone retweeted a Tweet or favorited something I Tweeted.

For me, I jumped in head first right away. I started sharing things and participating in chats almost as soon as I joined Twitter. But I know lots of people who are on Twitter and who just lurk and observe. They glean things off of Twitter they can use. They retweet things they find useful. But they don't share their own things. And if that is how you want to start, go for it. Get comfortable with the Twitter vernacular. See what other people are sharing. Retweet things you find valuable. But don't be afraid to share your own things or ask your own questions. There is a whole education community out there waiting to help you.

Set a goal to spend at least 10 minutes per day on Twitter. Go through your timeline and see what other people have been talking about. Retweet something you find helpful. Just 10 minutes a day. I think you will soon find yourself spending more and more time on Twitter. At least I hope you do!

Nebraska has some of the very best educational Tweeters out there. There are close to 100 Nebraska educators on this list. They are awesome people who are passionate about what they do. If you are not sure who to follow. follow everyone on this list and you will learn a lot.

I have to thank the people who convinced me (harassed me) to join Twitter: @coreydahlevent, @lpospishil and @bobhastings312. @shellymowinkel was a great mentor when I first got started. She was always there to answer questions. And since I've been on Twitter, I've met some fantastic tweeps: @mandery, @catlett1, @annfeldmann1, @chericson, @Coach_Sautter, @j_allen, @lherr, @hcallihan and so many others.

Getting the hang of Twitter and building a PLN can take some time, but it is so worth it!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

10 Skills Modern Teachers Must Have

The 10 Skills Modern Teachers Must Have is what sparked the Summer Tech Challenge. When I read this article, I knew that I had to use it to frame my summer tech training.

One of the statements in this article that really stuck out to me was "If you can't figure out how a digital tool helps you in under 15 seconds, you don't need it." For me, this statement is powerful. I'm always looking for the next big thing in educational technology. I explore a lot of sites every week. I have taken this statement to heart. If I can't figure out how to use the tool or how my teachers can use the tool in a short time, I move on.

Another skill modern teachers must have is building a PLN or Personal Learning Network. One of my big goals in the Summer Tech Challenge is to help teachers build their PLN. From blogging, to Pinterest to Twitter, all of these tools can help you build a PLN. I have built my PLN from scratch this year as I finally joined Twitter. I cannot believe how Twitter has changed the way I do things in my job, the way I share things, the way I ask for help. While most of these people on Twitter I have never met, they are some of the most helpful and supportive people out there.

Some people believe that Twitter is nothing but a time waster. And I can see how Twitter can be that. I believe it is all about who you follow. Twitter is not just Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher. There is a whole education community out there that uses Twitter to share, to learn and to grow professionally. These are the people I follow. I don't follow the Justin Bieber's and Ashton Kutcher's of the Twitter world. I follow people who I can learn from and who give me value as an educator.

I have to give a shout out to one of those people @catlett1 aka Brent Catlett aka Mr. Google. He actually challenged me to blog a couple of months ago. Well, I finally got around to it and I think I will stick with it. Maybe no one will read this blog. And that's okay. I think blogging and getting some ideas out on screen will help me grow as an educator. And that is what is important.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Welcome to the Summer Tech Challenge! I have had a lot of fun putting together this training. I have tried to pick tools that will allow you to grow as a professional. Some tools will be for your own professional development and organization. Some tools will be great to use with students. Hopefully you will be able to use everything you create in the challenges in some way with your students next year.

Please refer to the Summer Tech Challenge website for the details.

Good luck!