Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More Blogs to Read

In last week's blog post I mentioned that Edutopia had listed their ten favorite edublogs. Several of those blogs are already on my "Blogs I Read" list.

I've added the remainder of Edutopia's list to my list. I will read them for a while to decide if they add value to what I want to accomplish with this blog, namely,
"... a series of technology tips for educators... ideas for learning, teaching, and using digital skills."
I'm sure the blogs are interesting and worth reading. I just want to be sure they share "ideas for learning, teaching, and using digital skills" for educators.

There are some other blogs that I read that I haven't added to my "Blogs I Read" list yet. I'll have to add them some day soon!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Project-Based Learning

When you describe the learning activities in your classroom, would you like any of these phrases to apply to them?
  • active learning
  • authentic experiences
  • demonstration of mastery
  • engaging students
  • experiential learning
  • minds-on, hands-on
  • real-world
  • relevant
  • rigorous
  • standards-focused
  • 21st century skills
These words describe project-based learning. Project-based learning (PBL) moves away from isolated, teacher-centered lessons and emphasizes, instead, longer, student-centered lessons. PBL lessons are more likely to be interdisciplinary and to deal with real world issues.

Do we have time for project-based learning and its teaching in these days when teachers must teach the standards and students must pass standardized tests each year to meet the need for data to guide decisions about education covering districts, states, and the entire country? Based on some of the research, the question might instead be, as we prepare today’s students to live and learn in a very different society and economy, how can we not teach the standards and the processes of developing insight into projects of various types and solving the related problems through project-based learning?

There is much information about PBL on the web. Much of that information is very good. Examine and explore some sites with me…

The George Lucas Educational Foundation’s Edutopia lists project-based learning as one of its priority topics. Their site lists a summary of research activity that shows positive results of using PBL, including improved test scores. Stories are shared of students and teachers in both elementary and secondary schools and their effective project-based learning. (Be sure to watch the video of kindergarten students and their student-driven projects!) Specific ideas and resources are offered to help teachers who want to start using PBL in their teaching.

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has begun a feature area--Your Learning Journey--on their web site. The first journey focuses on project-based learning. Annotated links to PBL web sites, one teacher’s experience, PBL articles from Leading & Learning (L&L) and the Journal for Research in Teacher Education (JRTE), and information about a new ISTE book (available November 2007)--Reinventing Project-Based Learning--provide excellent ideas and shared experiences. You can also access a blog about project-based learning or a wiki where educators will be able to share their experiences. This learning journey is well put together.

I have already mentioned in an earlier blog entry a useful checklist tool for PBL activities.

techLEARNING has posted a primer for beginning to work with PBL. The well-written primer covers these topics:

  • Getting Started with Project-Based Learning
  • Criteria for PBL
  • Elements of a Great PBL Project
  • How to Pick a Project
  • Steps to Creating a PBL Project
  • Advice to Teachers, Technology Coordinators, and Administrators
  • PBL Information Online
PBL-Online provides resources for designing and implementing projects for middle and high school students. This web site guides you through the design process. You can use the PBL Co-Laboratory to search for projects already designed by others. (You must first complete a free registration.) And, finally, access to research and web resources is available. You can find a variety of useful ideas for instruction. One of the pages lists some guidelines and criteria to consider when working with a classroom that uses PBL. Some of the ideas include having a risk-free environment, encouraging higher order thinking skills, and being accessible for all learners. Web resources are available in five categories: introduction, designing projects, project examples, school reform, and “What do PBL teachers say?”

A good comparison of project-based learning, problem-based learning, and inquiry-based learning is available at teacher tap. If you have time, explore the entire teacher tap web site. There’s LOTS of good information there!

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) provides some useful information about problem-based learning. ASCD has published information about this topic. In fact, they have print, videotape, and audiotape resources.

A search on YouTube brings up some interesting videos about project-based learning. What Are Your Kids Thinking? offers what might be some students’ thoughts in a teacher-directed classroom. In Picturing the Possibilities, we watch a mathematics teacher and her students involved in some PBL activities. The next two videos--My Kind of High School and Sophia – Student at Avalon--show students describing their projects.

And, on another note, thanks to Eric Curts of the Ohio Treasure Chest who mentioned this blog in his recent podcast as one of his favorite places to find treasures for his Treasure Chest!

Added note: In the second comment below, Laura's link to the sample chapters in the ASCD book did not come through fully. So, if you would like to follow the link, click here.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Are You (or Your Students) Ready to Use Blogs?

Are you considering using a blog (or blogs) with the students in your classroom this year, but you aren’t quite sure how to start? Or do you just want to read what other educators are saying in their blogs about teaching and learning today? (Reading--and responding to--blogs written by other educators is much like chatting in a "teachers' lounge.") I think you’ll find many useful ideas in today’s blog entry. Enjoy!

Blogging Is History: Taking Classroom Discussions Online
by Helena Echlin
A blog is a tool for getting kids to think -- and type -- about what they're learning
Echlin describes a successful classroom project in which a teacher included a book and its author, a blog, and participation by students, parents, and a class in another district. You can pick up many ideas for starting your own blog project.

Digital Discussion: Take Your Class to the Internet
by Helena Echlin
How to set up a blog in your classroom
Read Echlin’s article for all the details, but here’s a summary… First, decide what the purpose of the blog(s) is: management, journal, notebook, discussion, or expression. Second, determine how to grade the students’ efforts. Then, go to one of several suggested sites to set up the blog(s). Make preferences choices that provide the protection you want for the students. Finally, there are suggestions for discussing the blog(s) in the classroom and even a sample lesson plan for teaching the students about blogging.

Classy Blogging
by Mimi Gilman

Gilman lists some education blogs that you’ll want to check. There are blogs about blogging… blogs about education… guidelines for student bloggers… examples of blogs created by students… so much to learn about educational blogging!

Best Blog for Educators (2007)
by Edutopia Staff

Read about Edutopia’s choice for the best blog in 2007 for educators. Also, learn about Google Alerts, a useful tool. [An alternative to Google Alerts is Swamii
which I described previously in this blog.]

Edublogs We Love: Ten Top Stops for Internet Interaction
by Edutopia Staff
These web sites are the cornerstones of a vast online educational community
If one “best” blog for 2007 isn’t enough, go to this site to find the Edutopia staff’s top ten edublogs for 2007.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Photo Journals and Student Recommendations


Some sites need to be revisited periodically (or, if possible, subscribed to with RSS) to determine what new information has been added or what might have been missed on previous visits. Edutopia (http://www.edutopia.org/) is one of those sites.

At this web site you will find many good examples of best practices, information about research, interviews, and lots of links. The many videos cover topics such as assessment and technology integration. If you have not spent some time exploring this rich site, you might want to add it to your “must visit” list.

On a recent visit to Edutopia I found two ideas I would like to share. The first activity was developed by a social studies teacher, although suggestions for using it to help teach literature were also listed. Actually, I see no reason why it can’t be used for any subject.

Now… one caution, please. If you’re not into scrapbooking, please ignore the title of this first article. Instead, pretend it says photo journals.

Academic Scrapbooking: Snapshots of Learning


Social studies teacher Heidi Willard uses scrapbooking with special-needs students and traditional students. The first time she tried the idea she took her students on a field trip. Afterward, she asked her students to create a scrapbook about their experience. To help make her idea work, the students had been provided with disposable cameras on the field trip. The students enjoyed the activity… and learned from it.

Benefits of the scrapbooking--or photo journal--projects she has used with her students include an increase in student interest, independent learning, and enhancing individual learning styles and strengths. She also found that students take ownership of their projects.

Language arts teachers who use this idea might have their students include pages of “narrative, descriptive, expository, and persuasive” writing. They could have pages about the themes of books they have read. Their creations could end up including poems, art, and information about famous writers. Photos play a role in these projects, too.

These assignments are not “scrapbooking for scrapbooking’s sake.” Teachers grade these projects as they would any other project. And the goal is that students learn what’s listed in the curriculum standards as it would be for any other classroom activity.

This article provides details about successful implementations of this idea and suggestions for how to do it in your classroom.

The Sky's the Limit: Kids' Top Tools for the Classroom

Today's students have grown up in a world filled with technology. DVDs, cell phones, and game consoles are part of their world. But… how much of this technology do they see in their classrooms? In Spring 2007, some teachers asked their students, "What technology do you use outside of school that would be good for the classroom? Why? How would that work?"

Here are some of the students’ responses…

Laptop computer: "We all do all of our work on computers anyway, and isn't that how it will be in the workplace, too?... Why don't the book publishers put all this material online? That way, it is easier to come out with new editions of texts, too."

Bluetooth, digital cameras, and flash drives are some of the students’ other hardware suggestions.

Software recommendations include…

Comic Life: Use digital photos to create comics, albums, story books, and how to manuals. (See very simple one-panel comic to the right.)

Dance Dance Revolution: Add this fun alternative to the physical education schedule.

Glossopedia: Enjoy this free multimedia, interactive environmental science encyclopedia for students aged 7 to 12.

The complete hardware and software lists and their explanations from the students in this article are very interesting. We do need to seriously consider them.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Resources for Technology Integration

The Florida Center for Instructional Technology (FCIT) is in the College of Education in the University of South Florida and is funded by the Florida Department of Education. The FCIT’s web site (http://fcit.usf.edu) has an interesting assortment of resources to help teachers integrate technology in the classroom.


The best part of this site is the Technology Integration Matrix (http://fcit.usf.edu:16080/matrix/). This matrix is “a video resource supporting the full integration of technology.” It pairs “levels of technology integration”—entry, adoption, adaptation, infusion, transformation—with “characteristics of the learning environment”—active, collaborative, constructive, authentic, and goal directed. Each cell in the matrix lists an indicator for that particular pair combination and two links, one to a video example for “1-1 access” and one for “shared access.”

The matrix is designed for several purposes; however, I think one of the most effective purposes is for individual teachers to determine where they currently are in the matrix and where they want to be in terms of their integration of technology in the classroom. Then they can watch videos on a path from their present status to their desired status to help them develop ideas for how they can intentionally change their teaching strategies.

Last week I said, “I can intentionally make changes in process… [to] come closer to… [my] goals.” The Technology Integration Matrix is a tool which can help us make those intentional changes.


Additional resources are available at this FCIT web site. Unfortunately, in some sections you will find some broken links as you explore due to the fact that they haven’t been updated since 2004.

A free set of online stories and poems is available in Lit2Go. These stories and poems are in MP3 format so you can listen to them on your MP3 player or your computer. The text can also be read on a web page. You’ll find works by Aesop, Jane Austen, James Baldwin, Beatrix Potter, Theodore Roosevelt, H.G. Wells, and many others. This site has been recently updated (2007).

Clipart, ETC contains clip art which teachers can use, usually free and with minimal restrictions. You’re not likely to find a picture of a computer in the collection, but there are some good items there. And a site map helps you find the good stuff.
robin Shakespeare

More than 20,000 backgrounds for Keynote or PowerPoint presentations, Holocaust resources (last updated January 2007), oral histories (video clips) from the Vietnam War, more than 5,000 maps covering different time periods (last updated August 16, 2007), … The list of resources goes on. Spend a few moments exploring this web site and you’re bound to find something that is helpful to you.