Tech Tuesday

Finds and Thoughts about Tech Integration

Classrooms with a View


Many moons ago when I was a second grade teacher, I was involved in a grant that brought three computer projectors to my elementary school. Our focus was the traditional five paragraph essay and how projecting student work and our own mini-lessons was faster, more efficient and eye-catching to students. The tools, resources and technology have evolved so much in a decade; however, one thing has remained the same: having a clear view to learning opens up your world.

In my current district, stimulus funds allowed us to mount a dozen projectors this school year. Unfortunately, we have more than a dozen classrooms and specialist rooms. Therefore, we had to have a selection process. Over the years, I have seen many pieces of equipment collect dust because it was doled out to a targeted grade level or even building. Either support was not available to foster its integration into the teacher’s classroom curriculum, or there simply was no investment. (I recall many computers appearing in my second grade classroom, and no one ever showed me how to use them. That was a turning point for me. I wanted to learn and went down a new path with a Masters program. This is not the case for everyone.) Therefore, the principal and I decided to have teachers apply for projectors. We were looking for individuals who were going to figure out how to give their students that view on a daily basis.

Today, I met with the projector collaborative group. Installation took longer than the district anticipated, but many have had two months to “play”. Today we supported one another by sharing tips and tricks on screen resolution, brightness and signal loss as well as what unique ways the equipment is seamlessly helping students learn curriculum. I took this opportunity to introduce the teachers to Wallwisher as a way for us to share these fabulous integration ideas (and then in turn use this new tool with their students, hopefully). Please check them out here.

I’m hopeful that our enthusiasm will spread amongst teams and that a new application process will be funded and, most importantly, embraced.

On a side note: At the MassCUE 2010 Conference, Suzy Brooks shared this Wallwisher PDF from Passy World with her participants. Suzy’s presentation was a real inspiration on how to be “Technically Invisible”. This is what we aspire to with our new mounted projectors. Thanks, Suzy!



Will Richardson’s article “Publishers, Participants All” in the February 2011 Educational Leadership really struck me this week. We all tell our students and children not to talk to strangers. Safety is paramount whether we’re on the street or online. However, if we really want to get students embedded in a global community of sharing, we need to start depending on the kindness of strangers (Thanks, Tennesse Williams!).

A while ago, I started to do just that by using the Comments4Kids hashtag on Twitter. Wondering what I’m talking about? Well, whenever my students are blogging, I tweet out a message with a direct link to the blog and add a hashtag.

For example, my tweet may read: Read and comment about Flat Ryan’s latest adventure in Germany #comments4kids .

What I’m hoping for is that my PLN on Twitter will see this tweet and choose to visit the the link and leave a comment. An added bonus would be if my PLN retweeted my request. If the request is retweeted it has the potential of being read by people outside my PLN who may decide to visit and comment on the blog. There is also the chance that it could be retweeted again. The cycle could continue infinitely, and the “Flat Ryan” author no longer is writing to just his teacher, classmates and me, but anyone who uses Twitter.

Of course, my tweet may not catch the eye or interest of my PLN in the Twitterverse. We’re all busy, right? That means no new visitors to the blog, and Flat Ryan will not be able to have any conversations to extend his learning.

Now, adding the hashtag (#comments4kids) to the tweet takes it to another level… and a new audience. Created by William Chamberlain, here is his original post on the idea. Essentially, you can filter/search Twitter by using a hashtag. People who are interested in commenting on kids’ blogs will follow #comments4kids. Therefore, my tweets requesting comments on a student’s post will not just end up in the vast worldwide sea of tweets, but rather flow into a designated pond that is being fished. Critics may say that we’re putting our students into a possible dangerous situation. Maybe, people who are not teachers and up to “no good” will follow this hashtag? My response is that you still have to teach your students to be safe online. We use generic usernames and don’t share private information. Teach them how to swim, not avoid the water!

I can’t even describe the excitement of my students when they receive comments from around the world. They realize that they have a voice, and it motivates them to write more! And who doesn’t want that?

This whole system works on the idea that if “strangers” comment on your students’ posts, then you need to comment on other students’ posts as well. Hence, a community of sharing grows and flourishes! Want to increase the traffic on your students’ blogs and get them engaged in the learning process? Go here to find out more information on how you can rely on the kindness of strangers.


Monkey See, Monkey Do


As I stood in my kitchen on this snow day, I observed a flourishing new behavior in my 19 month old son: mimicking. I do not have school today, but this morning, I tried to steal work moments at my laptop set up on a counter. My husband was working from home due to the storm and had set up shop with his laptop on the livingroom couch. During this time, our son traveled from room to room with various toys “curiously” checking in with both of us. At one point, my son pushed over a stool next to me and “asked” if he could come up to join me. Once he was in his seat, I handed him his toy laptop, and without any direction or prompting, he began to tap away on the buttons. I went back to typing an email and checking my Twitter PLN, but snuck glances at him. He continued to tap away and even stopped several times to wave at his refection in the “screen”. After about five minutes, he “asked” to get down. Initially, he put the toy laptop on the kitchen floor and started to scamper away ; however, he then turned around, picked up the laptop and placed it on the edge of the table. Satisfied with its placement, he  ran to his new adventure.

This whole sequence of events got me thinking about a Facebook post that a friend wrote over the weekend. She was looking for thoughts about whether or not she should let her nine year old have a FB account. Probably about 75% of the people were commenting “No” to her question, citing that it was too easy for kids to get into adult topics or dangerous. The people who responded “Yes” or were in favor of kids having Facebook accounts gave advice on privacy settings and making rules for the child. My response was that I’m always in favor of an opportunity to teach the appropriate and responsible way to do things.

In this blog, I have recommended and explained many tools and services that are at our fingertips. These tools can be used for good or evil. They can help us to solve problems or create issues. A steak knife can help us eat food, but it also can be a weapon. A swimming pool is a lot of fun; however, it’s very dangerous if you don’t know how to swim.

Seeing my son “play” with the laptop today showed me what I’ve already taught him about laptops. They are communication tools (his typing and then waving at the screen as if he was in a Skype call which BTW he does each night with Grandma). His gesture of going back to pick up his laptop and placing it on the table instead of leaving it in the debris of his discarded toys demonstrated that he’s been paying attention to what we do with our tools when we are done: Always putting them in a safe place. He knows that we value these tools.

Of course, a little while later, he did take his “laptop” down and step on it on purpose. After a reminder that we don’t use feet on laptops, he did pick it up and place it back on the table. Just because he’s growing up digital doesn’t mean my little monkey doesn’t need some guidance! 🙂 That’s what I’m trying to impart here. Parental/Teacher modeling and “conversations” about the technology and the world will have the greatest impact about how it’s used. We shouldn’t make it a forbidden fruit.

I’m looking forward to helping my son (and my students) become careful, responsible members of our connected society.

VoiceThread Follow Up


Last week, I attended the MassCUE Conference where I had the honor of being a presenter on both days. One of my presentations was a sharing of our MassCUE Initiative 2010 Grant. As nerve wracking as it is to prepare and give a presentation, I always find them to be such a wonderful way to reflect on what I’ve learned when it comes to the integration of technology. When you write up a grant, you’re never really sure how your bright ideas are going to work out. I even wrote about VoiceThread in an earlier post, outlining some tips and an explanation of the project that we were undertaking.  I’d like to take this opportunity to share the results of our VoiceThread project via SlideShare (embedded below). You will see that we set up a classroom blog that served as the backbone for the project, giving the students easy access and so many opportunities to communicate their learning. As always, your thoughts are welcome!

Note: The example links on slide 21 do not seem to be working in SlideShare.
I have linked them below.

Building Community in Your Classroom Resource


I would like to share this wonderful resource that was passed along to me via Twitter a few months ago. Martin Jorgensen, a member of my PLN, created Building Community in Your Classroom as an extension of his web site, The Digital Narrative.

This resource is a great idea generator and quick start guide for teachers about what technologies are available. Blogs, podcasts, VoiceThread, Glogster and wikis are a few of the topics highlighted. This resource is written very simply and clearly with great tips and suggestions of how to use the tools effectively in the classroom.

I particularly like the rationale about why this site was created. I agree that these social web sites are tools for creating a global community of sharing of ideas. I don’t believe that this technology isolates us, but rather brings us together in a forum without walls or borders. The tools certainly can enhance your classroom and teach students to be responsible, contributing members. And as Silvia Tolisano says, ‘It’s Not About the Tools. It’s About the Skills.’

Please bookmark Building Community in Your Classroom!

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