Sunday, February 25, 2007

SMART Board Lessons

“How about some good web sites for primary grades in reading and math… connected to the smart board… thanks.”

This request from a friend who is a second-grade teacher led me to four web sites (three, actually… but you’ll see) that have some very good lessons that primary teachers can use. The unexpected blessing is that these sites also have good lessons for other grade levels in K-12!

The first two sites come from Amphitheater Public Schools in Tucson, Arizona. Their teachers (K-12) have written some high-quality lesson plans that help them--the teachers--to embed technology into the curriculum. Some of the lessons involve ways--both innovative and effective--for students to use the Internet, and others use higher-level thinking along with technology integration.

They also list other useful resources. For example, I found the Literacy Center (, an early literacy site for primary teachers. It has games that can be played on the SMART board.

The next web site comes from Hillside Elementary School in Needham, Massachusetts. The Cyberventures page ( contains a variety of information worth examining. However, the web site I chose for this blog entry contains activities (K-5) especially for SMART boards.

I had fun with the Virtual Geoboard ( and I like the chart ( that maps web sites appropriate for use with an interactive white board based on subject and age group.

The last web site I’ve chosen with SMART board lesson plans and activities (K-12) is from the pdtogo web site that I mentioned in a previous (December 8, 2006… blog entry on SMART boards. These pdtogo podcasts began in January 2006 and still continue. The URL that I’ve bookmarked for you is the lesson archive page. It allows you to look over the entire list of podcasts up to this point… or to examine them based on categories such as “math lessons” or “reading lessons” (see the right-hand column). These podcasts are fun to listen to and/or watch and they include bits of other useful information in addition to SMART board lessons.

Two examples of the lessons available from pdtogo include these literacy lessons for primary students. SMART Board Lesson 56 has a SMART Notebook file (chickachicka.notebook) that can be downloaded for a primary lesson for matching sounds, pictures, and letters. Lesson 62 includes a file for a jeopardy-style game for an early years lesson about letter sounds. Both of these lessons were developed by a kindergarten teacher in Canada.

As I examine lesson plans from each of these sites, it is obvious that they are designed by teachers who know well both their students and the content they are teaching. The web sites are chosen especially for the fact that they contain good lessons for the primary grades. However, the quality doesn’t stop there. Check out these sites even if you teach other grades.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

What is the Web 2.0?

I have been researching to find some ways to effectively share what the Web 2.0 is.

I browsed through some YouTube videos to see what I might find interesting.

These were two separate actions, but one proved to be the answer for the other.

I have collected a half-dozen videos from YouTube that have been posted in the past year… and which provide some interesting insights into Web 2.0. Some of them are designed for educators; some, for business. Together these videos can help us understand the Web 2.0 better.

Note: If you choose to show any of these to students, please review the videos first to be sure all the language used is appropriate.

Web 2.0
Added March 08, 2006
The purpose of this video is to teach educators about Web 2.0 tools using Wikipedia’s information on Web 2.0.

Power of Web 2.0
Added April 30, 2006
Web 2.0—with its blogging, podcasting, and video sharing—has enabled any one of us to become a broadcaster and to have a global audience.

What is Web 2.0? Short Version documentary
Added August 10, 2006
Some startup executives discuss the Web 2.0, business models on the web today, and publishing in a user-generated world.

What is Web 2.0?
Added September 10, 2006
The Web 2.0 is defined with a focus on how it's changing the Internet.

Web 2.0 Summit Opening Session
Added December 07, 2006
Tim O'Reilly and John Battelle look at their original ideas about Web 2.0. They also preview some sessions scheduled for an upcoming summit.

Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us
Added January 31, 2007
A professor responds to the Web 2.0.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Backpack Can Help You and Your Students to Get It Done!

More than 200,000 people have used Backpack to create “to do’s” (more than 8,000,000) and notes (more than 1,200,000). The New York Times says that Backpack is “a cool organizational tool. How very cool.”

What does this web-based service do? How can you, your colleagues, and your students use it? Make “to do” lists to help you get things done. Organize your photos and share them with others. Set reminders that you can receive by email or on your cell phone at predefined times. Keep your calendar online and access it from anywhere. Upload files that you can access from other locations. Collaborate with others in your team on a project.

Backpack is a web-based service with which you can make/store/access to-do lists, notes, files, and images. Email lists, notes, files, and images to Backpack. Backpack can email you the content from a Backpack page. Set up text messages and email alerts to be sent to your cell phone at a time and date that you set.

How can you use Backpack? Keep track of your “to do” list. Plan your next vacation. Organize your next project. Gather information for a research project. Collaborate with others on a project. You can share your pages with others. Keep your schedule online. Access it from any computer… anywhere. Share calendars with others.

You can sign up for a free account. And then you can upgrade at any time… if you wish. (Free accounts do not include files, images, or calendars.) The cost of Backpack ranges from free to $5/$9/$14 per month. Plus and Premium Backpack plans are SSL secure. The Basic plan is not. All plans are password protected. Internet Explorer, Safari, and Firefox are compatible with Backpack. (Backpack doesn't work with Internet Explorer 5.x.)
"It's perhaps the most convincing Web answer yet to the power, flexibility and simplicity of a spiral-bound notebook." -Khoi Vinh
Here are some of the possible uses as listed on Backpack’s web site…
  • Plan and organize a wedding or special event
  • List items for sale
  • Organize and prepare for a meeting
  • Post book reviews, product reviews, whatever reviews
  • Store canned emails
  • Publish and organize guitar tabs
  • Plan for your holiday greeting cards
  • Organize a craft project
  • Comparison shop and research a product on a Backpack page
  • Organize a business trip
  • Organize rebates, coupons, and special deals
  • List your favorites in your city
  • Use Reminders so you don't forget the little things
  • Present color palette options
  • Collaborate on new feature ideas, brainstorms, and screenshots
  • Create quick access to numbers you need
Do you have some items you want to sell? Upload photos of the items, determine prices, publish the “for sale” page on the web.

Are you planning to purchase a product, but you need to research different options? A camcorder? A computer? A car? A house? Store the prices, vendors, photos on a Backpack page to keep your research organized.

Going to a professional conference? Keep track of the sessions you want to attend… session titles, speakers, locations, and descriptions. List your expenses--travel, hotel, meals--to make it easier to complete the paperwork when you return.

Are your students researching a subject in a team? They can collaborate by sharing a page that each team member can access and edit. Are you and your colleagues working together on a project? You, too, can collaborate by sharing a page which each of your colleagues can access and edit. (Each person who accesses your page must have a Backpack account. The accounts are free.)
“Hot site of the day.” -USA Today

“Emphatic usefulness! It's perhaps the most convincing Web answer yet to the power, flexibility and simplicity of a spiral-bound notebook.” -Khoi Vinh, Subtraction

“Everything you used to scribble down on sheets of paper can be replaced by Backpack's functionality, combining weblogging, to-do lists, and calendars all into one simple-to-use interface.” -Wholesome Goodness
You can use your Backpack home page to keep track of everything that you need to handle. You might want to use it as the home page for your browser. That way you’ll see it every time you open your web browser.

Backpack ( is a simple, free, and useful web-based service that can be used by you, your colleagues, and your students.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

PowerPoint by the Numbers

I looked on the Internet for design ideas for PowerPoint presentations for education. My goal was to find some simple ways to make the presentations more effective. I hoped to find some rules--do two of this… or three of that--to help make the design elements easy to remember. I did find a couple rules and quite a few recommendations.

I’m sharing these ideas with the hope that they will be useful as you work with students who are learning PowerPoint… or any other presentation tool.

THREE Guidelines for Design…

1. Determine the Purpose of the Presentation

How you approach the presentation…
Do you want to entertain, educate, or persuade? Considering the topic and the audience, should your approach be formal or informal? The answers to these questions will help to determine the fonts, images, and backgrounds that you choose.

How you use the presentation…
Are you designing the presentation for the screen, the web, or for printing… or for a combination of these? Dark backgrounds with light fonts display well on the screen; however, they do not print well. You may want to format the slides with one color scheme for display and another for printing.

2. Keep the Presentation Simple

Use TWO font families…
Using two font families (in the whole presentation) serves most presentations well. You may want to try light-colored fonts on dark backgrounds. Your audience will find it very easy to view.

Use ONE photo / image / chart…
One photo, image, or chart is usually the most you want on each slide. That, of course, does not include a school or district logo that you might use.

Use SIX words / SIX bullets rule…
Use white space generously. In order to have white space, you must keep the number of words on each slide to a minimum. I’ve read—and tried—several different combinations of how much information you should display on each slide. In my experience, six words per bullet and six bullets per slide are pretty much a maximum. Cliff Atkinson, author of Beyond Bullet Points, says, "When you remove interesting but irrelevant words and pictures from a screen, you can increase the audience's ability to remember the information by 189% and the ability to apply the information by 109%."

Keep the file size SMALL…
Try to keep the file size of the presentation from growing too large. Compress photos. Use built-in PowerPoint features--tables, charts, AutoShapes—rather than embedding and importing objects as much as possible. There’s no magic number for how small the file size should be. Just keep in mind that LESS is MORE.

Follow the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint…
* ten slides
* twenty minutes
* no fonts smaller than thirty points.
Ten concepts is more than enough to learn in one setting… and twenty minutes is more than enough sitting time. And your audience will certainly appreciate that the font size is readable… even from the back row.

Put LOTS of information in the handout…
Create a handout for your audience. Put as much information and detail in it as you want them to know. And tell them at the beginning that you will give them a handout after the presentation is finished so they don’t have to take notes and can, instead, listen to you and watch the presentation.

Use FEW special effects…
Special effects can distract people, so they should be used sparingly. Sounds, especially, can be a problem. If you’re showing the presentation from your laptop, any sound effects may not be well heard by members of the audience beyond the first couple of rows because laptops are not designed to project sound far.

3. Choose Consistent Elements

Use the same…
style of photos,
style of images,
slide transitions, and
templates through the whole presentation.

Final Comments

The slides are an aid to your presentation. They are not THE presentation. So, the words on the slides should support the words you say.

"Right and wrong do not exist in graphic design. There is only effective and non-effective communication." — Peter Bilak, author of Illegibility