Monday, August 27, 2007

Happy New (School) Year!

I’ve always enjoyed the beginning of a new school year. It’s an opportunity to start afresh, to set new goals… both for my students and for myself. I can intentionally make changes in process that will help us come closer to those goals.

A comment by David Warlick in a recent blog entry ( started my thinking about reading. What have I been reading? Many years ago that question would be answered with a simple list of recently read books and periodicals. However, when I started thinking about what I currently read, my list includes books—paper and ebooks, periodicals—paper and online, newspapers—paper and online, blogs, podcasts, and web sites.

What about my students? The state standards for reading ( indicate that students are expected to read “print and electronic text”… and they are to “listen.” The purposes of their reading include “learning about a subject,” “doing a job,” “making decisions,” and “accomplishing a task.” The types of items they are to read include “essays, magazines, newspapers, textbooks, instruction manuals, consumer and workplace documents, reference materials, multimedia and electronic resources.” These standards include the variety of types of reading that shows up on my list. This will be the basis of conversations with my students and of assignments for their classes.

If all of us—my students and myself included—are to learn throughout our lives, then it serves us well to develop the habit of reading well-chosen materials. Thus, one of my goals for this new school year is to develop assignments that encourage (require?) my students to read a variety of types of materials in a variety of ways… and to share with them that I also do that as a part of my own growth.

A video on TeacherTubeDigital Students @ Analog Schools ( --has some ideas that I think are important to consider. In this video, students share their thoughts about the teaching and learning processes which they’ve experienced. (Although these are college students, their words could just as easily have come from K-12 students.) Some of the students share that they are visual learners in a lecture environment; some, that they are learning skills for past jobs rather than future jobs. Others state that the learning environment is frustrating and that they do not have opportunities to be creative. Will the students’ future lives and the skills they need be just as they imagine? Probably not, but nonetheless they express some very important ideas. So, my goals this year include the increased use of teaching and learning processes appropriate for students who have grown up in a visual, creative environment.

Technology plays a major role both in the setting of my goals and in accomplishing them. As the year progresses, my students and I will both learn more technology to help us meet our goals.

What are your goals for this school year? What do you want to learn to help you reach those goals? What resources will make it easier for you and your students? Write to me through a comment on this blog to share how I can help you with technology this new school year.

Have you ever been curious about how and where different ZIP codes in the USA have been set up? Tim Stahmer’s Assorted Stuff ( blog shares this site ( about ZIP codes. You’ve got to check it out!


( ( highlighted the Presidential Timeline of the 20th Century this summer. The web site provides access to portions of the collections of the presidential libraries of 12 presidents. A multimedia exhibit features key decisions such as Pearl Harbor and the Gulf of Tonkin. Some well-designed activities for classroom use are also available.

If you did not attend the major educational technology conference of the summer, has a site where you can learn what you missed at the NECC conference. Keynote speaker Andrew Zolli recommended we focus on students’ creativity and ISTE updated the National Educational Technology Standards for Students. Unrelated concepts? No… creativity and innovation top the list of traits in the revised standards. Read about these ideas and more at this site.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ideas for Using Digital Cameras in Your Classroom

Digital cameras are so easy to use nowadays… and they’re a great tool for both teachers and students to use in the classroom. This web page ( has some good ideas for using them.

Suggestions are listed for:
• arts and humanities,
• mathematics,
• practical living,
• reading,
• science,
• social studies, and
• writing.

Some recommendations are…
• Take photos of items of a particular color. Insert the photos in a PowerPoint “booklet” for that color. This idea could be used when students are first learning colors or as they learn more about colors in art education.
• Take photos of favorites (food, colors, books, CDs). Use the information in the pictures to create a graph.
• When students make their alphabet books as they learn the alphabet, they can take photos of objects for each letter.
• Take photos of items that have a common characteristic (e.g., mammals, levers, triangles).
• Students can create their own textbooks on the weather with photos they take, illustrations they draw, and explanations that they write.
• Create a brochure about some aspect of your town: history, famous people, architecture, …
• Write a poem or story and illustrate it with photos. Or illustrate a favorite poem or story with photos.
• Write about a recent field trip and illustrate the information with photos your students took while on the field trip.

Although this web page (dated 2003) does not appear to have been updated recently, the ideas for using digital cameras in the classroom are still good.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

21st Century Connections Web Site

I’ve discovered a web site that has some very useful links. The site is 21ST CENTURY CONNECTIONS: Innovative technologies to inspire digital creativity in 21st century classrooms (

This web site is designed to provide resources for digital learning.
Technology & Learning ( hosts the site.
Adobe (,
Intel (, and
Futurekids ( provide the information.

Here’s some of what I found:

Photo Composition 101… instructions from Adobe for composing photos well
I’ve been taking more photos recently. I even entered two of them in a contest recently. However, my husband is the photography “pro” in our household. He recommended last week that I work on composition when I take photos. We had an interesting conversation as he shared some ideas with me. This short tutorial—Photo Composition 101—fits in perfectly with our discussion. It echoes some of my husband’s advice and adds a couple new ideas to keep in mind. One of the suggestions is that the point of interest in a photo be placed at one of the four points of intersection of lines which divide the photo into thirds horizontally and vertically rather than at the center of the photo.

The first photo is more interesting than the second one due to placing the statue at an intersection rather than in the center of the photo.

Top 10 Tips for Digital Photography… also from Adobe

This article is worth several years of experience. You can learn the same ideas on your own, but it would be so much faster to learn by reading the article. One interesting technique I learned is that the camera may take pictures more quickly if the LCD screen preview is turned off.

Nine Needs for Web Literacy… from
Two of the suggested topics to include when teaching web literacy are web site spoofs and email spoofs. It is certainly very important to help both children and adults learn how to recognize these today.

NECC Insights Offered in Podcasts… hosted on Apple’s Learning Interchange
Did you miss NECC? Or would you like to hear some of the speakers again? You can listen to Ian Jukes, Andrew Zolli, Doug Johnson, and others.

My only complaint about the site is that it’s difficult to discover some of the good information that’s available. Once you do discover it, though, you can use the Search function to find it again, if necessary.

I’ve shared some of the links on this web site that I find useful. I think you will find additional links that fit your interests.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Swapping Books

Having lunch with a librarian recently provided more than just a delicious meal. I learned about sites for swapping books. (Thanks, Nancy, for both!)

After I returned home from visiting, I did some research on the web. The following list is just a bit of what I found.

Some sites charge no fee. You pay to ship your books to someone else and, thus, earn credits that allow you to choose a book to be shipped to you from someone else’s list. Some other sites charge a fee instead. You’ll want to browse what kinds of books are generally available in addition to comparing the costs.

As you check these sites, you will also find sources for free reading and for swapping items other than books (e.g., CDs, DVDs, video games).

This is a great way to limit your expenses without limiting your reading material!

Friedbeef’s Tech
Best Places to Get Free Books - The Ultimate Guide

This blog entry lists more than 30 sites to explore for swapping opportunities and, also, for free books. Some of the sites for trading books include Bookins, FrugalReader, ZunaFish, SwapSimple, and BookMooch. Do check this blog entry. They include much more than I’ve listed!

Digital Inspiration

This blog lists several sites including TitleTrader and Campus Book Swap. Be sure to also check the other sites listed on this blog.