Thursday, December 31, 2009

Educational Journeys

This blog posting begins from Aaron Eyler's blog (Synthesizing Education) on Dec. 30, “The Appropriate Use of Technology in K-12 Classrooms”, and moves on to, what I think, is an example of teacher preparation, planning, and collaboration.  His blog makes several good points - a weekly visit to the computer lab is not integrating technology.  His view of “having students engage in critical thinking using technology that contributes to their overall learning” is spot on.  In North Carolina, our new teacher evaluation does add technology integration into the evaluation - big step forward.

With all of the demands on teacher’s free time (40 minutes during the day and 30 minutes before and after school in elementary--with the required meetings), finding the time to create lessons that totally integrate technology is difficult.  These lessons should use cooperative learning, use many levels of thinking skills, and have group rubrics; this requires a lot of planning, thinking, reflecting, and tinkering to develop, along with a tremendous desire to “do the best” for the students. It is exhausting.  Time consuming.  If teachers could work in cooperative groups (in elementary, grade-levels), like the students, it would help stream-line the planning.  Add an instructional technologist to this group, and you have a group based on curriculum content and school level tech that is available, allowed by the district, and possibly some new web tools that add interest to the students.  Being there, in the lab or classroom, when some of this work/web tools is being done or introduced, aids and supports the classroom teacher.  It gives a boost to the work production.  Many instructional technologists were previously classroom teachers and do have a good content background. 

At our school, we are undergoing some new projects this spring (along with moving our 3rd-5th graders into a new, technology rich building).  The 4th graders are going on a field trip to the NC outer banks to enhance their study of our state and its history.  The principal bought 6 flip cameras to allow these students to participate and bring home their personal views of what they saw and why it is important.  I made a blog to share links for content, pics of the trip, and allow a conversation to begin on this learning project.  We have a good skeleton project and are adding details and rich content, done individually by the classroom teachers.  I’ll begin working with the teachers and then the students (in groups of 6) to learn to use these cameras, how to download the files, how to discriminate importance of content, lengths of time and sizes of files, etc.  (remember these are 9-10 year olds).  Some of the finished products in this project include written reports by students posted on the blog or wiki page, the finished videos posted, student and teacher reflections of the trip, year’s work, and possibly some skits or reports on the  school’s daily news program.  

Time and postings will show our results - I imagine some will be more successful than others and some tinkering will be done with the ideas along the way.  Interesting and exciting to see students engaged in their learning, making choices, owning what they know and want to know, and working together to strengthen their choices.  Education is now becoming a more personalized journey for students.  This is an exciting time to help students grow by facilitating instruction rather than the teacher as “expert”, lecturing.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Google Apps for Education

We are beginning a new adventure in technology for our students when we return to school in January. Our students in fifth grade are our "test" students in using Google apps.  They will be given a login to gmail and can access docs, calendars, and pages to produce and share their work in a closed environment.  Our goal is to allow use of web 2.0 tools for student work at school and home, and keep it safe.  We will be a totally closed environment.  Only fifth grade students and their teachers, principal ,assistant-principal, curriculum coordinator, and instructional technologist will have access.  Students can use email, docs (document, presentation, spreadsheet, and form) to complete their work and share it on their own webpage.  All content will only be seen by other students and staff.  Of course we hope to learn a lot with these students in our "test" and hope to expand these logins to more students/grade levels next year. Students can use docs to complete homework and save to share with teachers at school, or use the share feature and email the work to the teacher.  With many families having internet connections, public libraries, and the Winston-Net program (puts computers in recreation and other community centers through-out the county), accessibility is possible for students.

I have to say, it took only a week (with just a couple of days) to set-up all the apps in Google for education The other days were waiting for the new web domain to get through the web (TTL) and send and receive emails.  The help screens are excellent and the guide for set-up is very easy to follow.  Just some quiet time to go through the set-up is all you need.  We did purchase a domain so our students have a shortened email address, but that was the ONLY expense.  We immediately applied to be upgraded to Google for education, which is free, and that gives us more logins than the 50 in the orginal set-up.

My experience so far is incredible - easy - offering more opportunities to students - and so exciting.  Student excitement about using new tools brings/increases enthusiasm to projects and school work.

Our thoughts in the test group - fifth graders are only 5 1/2 short months from completing elementary school and moving to middle school.  These apps will allow them to enhance or learn new skills while developing self-confidence in their abilities.  These students are capable and ready to take another step in learning and technology.  They will question, have problems, and solve problems, and give us experience in using these tools with students.  Step one is complete - now it's time to implement - on to step 2.

Periodically I'll post more information on how our test group of students are doing and the successes and obstacles we find.

 I did spend 2 days in Washington, D.C. with 1 1/2 of those days at the Google office there - it was an amazing experience - even though I had bronchitis and coughed a lot!  The people from Google and the groups of teachers attending were helpful, thoughtful, and enthusiastic about helping students learn to manage  web tools and learning. Google Teacher Academy is highly recommended - an experience unlike any other. Never once heard the words 21st century learning - as our local tech people say, we ARE IN the 21st century, we must step up and use the tools and offer our students the experiences they need to be successful and adjust to the fast-paced world of learning and sharing. We aren't "going there" we are here!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Read Around the Planet

Time for teacher sign-ups for Read Around the Planet - this year eight teachers have signed-up.  This is 30 minutes of "fun" sharing reading, writing, skits, learning, but emphasis is on fun!  With all of the testing and time spent on test sophistication, this type of interactive activity with another class shares the joy of reading, the pleasure of sharing what you read, and for children who may not see their parents reading (may be asleep) or just our busy lives, this emphasis on reading for pleasure, besides the reading for information done in schools, jobs, businesses, allows the spark of reading fun to remain active.

Mrs. Church's kindergarten (right) has participated several years.  They enjoy sharing poetry. We have classes from kindergarten through fifth grade at our school.  The upper grade students usually prepare a skit or act out a favorite book.  All of these communication skills help our students learn and grow.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Flip Cameras on Field Trips

Our principal just purchased six new flip cameras for upper grade students to use.  This will be a great addition to field trips - imagine when our 4th graders go the the North Carolina outer banks this spring...  The history there:  there is the mystery of the "Lost Colony" in Manteo, what happened to that first colony and the first European baby born here?  The shipwrecks off the coast, the legend of Blackbeard who lived and pirated these waters, and died here, the wild horses found on the northern banks and on Ocracoke -- these horses are of Spanish descent (checked by DNA) and are thought to have survived when ships wrecked and swam to shore to live and reproduce.  The horses' descendants still inhabit the islands.  The thrill of visiting the historic lighthouses, all with unique histories and the joy of the students capturing this on camera and making movies when they return to school. There are so many reading, writing, communication skills, technical skills and just plain fun in learning opportunities that it will take awhile to post it here and on the school webpage.  -- And this is just the example of one field trip.  There will be many to come.  Yippee!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Phones & Driving

This is my 2 cents worth:
Technology - it is great and there are apps for just about everything.  It can become a "jazz" thing of always learning the new thing and moving on with it, but you should always look at the application and its uses and even its effect on others.  Recently I saw a tweet about a website that offers "hands free" apps while driving.
This might be a great thing for a few folks who may be driving long distances with little traffic around them, but for many who are driving in dense traffic or bad weather, this could be just the one thing too many that causes an accident.  When I am stopped at a traffic light, I will answer my phone, but as soon as traffic begins again, I say good-bye, or use the other option and pull off the road.  Driving while talking on the phone does distract the driver from giving full attention to safety. This cartoon says a lot. It's not just their safety, but the safety of all who are near-by.  Take responsibility for yourself and others.  Leave the phone alone while driving.  As of December 1, 2009, it is illegal to text while driving in NC. Talking on the phone is legal while driving.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Orville & Wilbur Wright - PPS Mega 3

The big day has arrived - our students are ready, they've researched Orville and Wilbur Wright, from Ohio to North Carolina - they've written a script, posted their work on the wiki, and practiced their skit.  But first, there are some other presentations to watch and an interactive presentation about robotics.  Teams of middle school students made robots - they researched to determine a purpose for their robot, then developed it to complete that task.  Our students and teachers were thrilled as these students shared their projects.  This all day videoconference was PPS (Pittsburgh Public Schools) Megaconference 3.  Schools from Pittsburgh, PA, NC, TX, Canada, and England participated; schools from elementary through high school.

The fun of the culminating activity of collaborative projects -- sharing it with others, interactively, adds dimensions of learning to students and teachers.  They stretch their abilities and observe other students in their pursuits.  The atmosphere, the joy, the presentation skills, all allow opportunities to students. And to teachers, as they thoughtfully interact with students in discussion of the presentations, oral and written reflections of the activities.

Our students will travel to the outer banks of North Carolina this spring and visit Kitty Hawk.  They will film and post videos and blogs of their travels - stretch the learning - take it to new layers.  "12 seconds that changed the world" refers to the first flight of the Wright brothers.  Yet, technology in education is changing the world as our students perceive it - and opening the world to our students, not to just a few who can afford to travel, but to all who can find internet access - sharing this learning through blogs, webpages, wikis, videos, videoconferences, twitter, web 2.0 tools, collaborative tools, and the new, yet to be invented, communication tools that enhance learning.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Interactive Videoconference - UK Poetry Day

A teacher willing to jump into a new educational opportunity, do a little creative work, and her students are rewarded with an experience of learning unlike any other.  This describes one of our fifth grade teachers recently.  Late last spring, I ran across a good international educational opportunity, asked a teacher who is willing to give new experiences to her students, and it turned into a great learning experience.  Our application to participate in the UK Poetry Day was accepted.  We were put in the session with three other schools from the UK and English poet, John Hegley.  The purpose of the conference was to write poems about Europe to share these poems.  Mrs. Scott had her fifth graders list the countries in Europe and the facts and well-known landmarks from each country.  They used this chart to create their class poem.  Meanwhile, I ordered four of John Hegley's poetry books to give the students opportunity to read and be familiar with his work.  They prepared questions to ask him about his poems.

Event day had us all excited.  The room was set with chairs, one table at the front, and a British and U.S. flag on the table along with two of the poet's books.  The students enjoyed hearing the other poems written by students, and they enjoyed the entertaining way the poets shared their poetry.  Some read, some sang, and all engaged the audience.  Some of the poems were read in English and French and some in Spanish.  Many of the presenters allowed the audience to participate by repeating phrases.

This experience had so many levels of learning.  The basic reading (the poet's books), writing the poem, thinking about and creating the chart of "what we know" about Europe (social studies), art - drawing pictures to share while the poem was being read aloud,  practicing the poem (oral communication skills), and engaging an audience from other countries in other languages.  WOW!  Oh, and did I mention, it was free! :-)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

POV's "The Principal"

This blog is usually about technology, but this post is about good public education. Technology is my usual "soapbox," but back it up a little and it is good public education. Public education is a great equalizing force in America. It allows all students to learn, pull themselves up and do better, which public education has done for generations. An educated public is necessary for a democracy to survive. We need adults who think for themselves, not someone who is always fed information and follows along. When you hear or read a news story, do you question it? Do you ask (in your head) the unasked questions? Can you read opposing view points and decide for yourself? These skills are important for determining your own path in life; for keeping our democracy strong.

What is good public education? Where does it begin? How do we replicate it? It begins with good principals, good leadership, and good teaching. If you missed seeing it, check out the PBS website and search for POV or "The Principal." We are so lucky that we have so many of these characteristics in our county and schools. One thing I have been hearing locally for several years is "data driven" decisions. We are certainly doing that. Walk-throughs by principals, assistant-principals, & curriculum coordinators; K-2 assessments; and of course, the EOG's (end of grade tests for grades 3-5). All of these are tools to see that we are on task as professionals doing the best we can for our students. But the main ingredient at the base is emotional -- do you have "heart?" Do you love children and do you have patience to teach them social behaviors, manners, kindness, using words rather than fists, pushing, etc. Can you give a child a pat on the back, give a hug; do you believe that he/she can succeed? Do you believe that all children can learn and be successful? Some say teaching is a "calling" like being a minister or priest.  Could be, but it does take that special extra caring ingredient, that if you don't have, you are only helping others to process information, not grow into caring, responsible human beings.

Watching these two principals in this documentary deal with the many problems of public schools (remember, we accept everyone, no entrance exams), and surviving, improving, making tough decisions, all come to play, but having the heart to stay strong, give help where needed, and be willing to change strategies, actions, make new plans for success and just work very hard--this is what I identify with and fortunately, see at my school. Our staff cares and has a community of learning and giving to students. Parents and community support our school. Teachers work on committees and stay after-school hours to communicate and plan for changes and improvements. Each day is an opportunity to do better than the day before. Each day is a fresh start for students to learn and show good behavior. Teachers volunteer their hours to have after-school clubs or activities to extend and expand learning. (We've had Math Club, Computer Club, Junior Master Gardeners, Quest Atlantis.) Some teachers do stay and tutor after-school for pay, but we all have the good-will and success of our students at heart.

Education is one entity that I have a problem with using the "business" model. Students are not widgets and are all different. Students need an individual approach. Students need cooperation, love, patience, and continued, constant support from the teachers and school community to succeed. All of this is directed by the principal. Without a good principal who is willing to give his/her heart and much of his/her life to the job, making those tough decisions, and trying to continually improve and help the staff to continually improve, you have mediocrity. We can do better than mediocre. This documentary shows two principals who do have these characteristics and demonstrate success in their schools. Watch it online if you missed it.  It shows what is "right" about good public schools.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Twitter Professionally

Emory, from our school system tech dept, wrote about Twitter and using it professionally. He was "spot on." I, too, get good ideas, suggestions, partners from videoconferencing folks and ed tech folks every day. It's utterly amazing to find connections around the globe on twitter. The distinction being, using it as a professional tool.

I've tried to explain to others (my husband and family) that it is so helpful, professionally. My first reaction to "what are you doing in 140 characters or less?" was "who cares." I joined and didn't tweet much. When I began looking at people whose blogs I read and looking at who they were following on Twitter and who was following them, I realized that this is a current, fluid, collective network of people - experts. Like going to an ed tech conference, but it was free. The network of users allows us to "pick the brains" of many talented people on a daily basis. This is not Facebook. I'm not trying to put myself "out there," but to locate relevant, timely, information and hints that help me work with my school staff and students. The only "social networks" I'm on by name are all work/professionally related. MUSE (Internet 2), and several ning groups.

Of course, I occasionally do tweet about personal things. My dogs, especially good day or happy occasion, but this too has some interesting results. Upon returning from our vacation, tweeted about the NC outer banks. Next thing I had a couple of tweets from folks who live there, rent homes there and located a great house for a trip on my birthday. Also tweeted while driving home from NY to NC about my son's wedding and honeymoon in Italy. Within 10 minutes, I had a tweet from a fellow in Italy with houses to rent and train schedules. Hmmm, now that would be another great trip.

There are over 7000 ning groups for Twitter. Many in education. Twitting is allowing me, professionally, to stay involved in and up-to-date with instructional technology and videoconferencing. It is also allowing me to make positive contacts with many people I will never meet or see in person, but can learn from, an open, free, extended network, like grad school. Yes, this technology application is worth applause.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Looking for Ways Technology Can Connect Students

In our state we study our state in 4th and 8th grades. For 3 years we had a wonderful connection with a school in the mountains. That teacher retired and we have been working on finding other connections for the past two years. We'll still continue to look for interactive videoconference partners, but now will change our question or search to looking for other ways to connect with these classes so our students can learn and share together.

Of course, these same sources would work for searches for global connections of all types.
  • try Skype in Schools to locate someone in the U.S. or other countries (back out on the address -- take the Directory off)
  • try twitter - search for country names -- you'd be surprised how fast you may get an answer! -- twitted once about my son's wedding and honeymoon in Italy and within 10 minutes had a fellow from Italy twitting me with train stations, prices, and places to stay
  • new list for Technology Facilitators in NC posted a forum request there
  • NC ITS login - has lists of school served by NCVIP
  • ning groups - several - Videoconferencing, Global Education Collaborative, Classroom 2.0, Tools for the Classroom
  • then there are the blogs, too
  • Twitter for Teachers
  • listservs & websites - several of these websites have a listserv bringing you the new information daily - TWICE or Capspace, CILC
    I plan to continue my search for partners, whether we use videoconferences, wiki's, blogs, or skype. Students connecting directly to students is a powerful way to learn.
  • Saturday, September 5, 2009

    Support Education

    I guess I'm surprised that people have concerns over the President of the United States addressing students. Being an educator, I encourage anyone supporting students to do their best; supporting studying, making goals, reaching for the stars. I can't imagine adults not wanting their children to be encouraged to improve and work hard. Seems like a no brainer. My first reaction was, "Wow, the President is taking the time to speak directly to students -- that's great!" Students need role models. They need adults that they can look up to. Of course, parents are number one in this position, but not all students have parents, one or two.

    Just read the Einstein quote of the day--maybe it fits here: "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds..." Is this just out of control politics? I'm not sure, but I hope that rational thinking prevails and adults choose to act like adults and applaud all encouragement of students doing their best and trying to improve their own education, taking ownership and responsibility for their learning and thinking. No matter who I voted for in the past election, I would support the President or any speaker who encouraged students to learn, think, set goals, and improve their world.

    Saturday, August 29, 2009

    Scheduling IVC for Fall 2009

    We've updated the choices and are ready to meet and talk with grade levels about the opportunities this year for videoconferencing. The NC Museum of Natural Sciences has added a new program that fits well with our 3rd graders and their field trip to Reynolda Gardens.

    The second grade teachers are taking a step forward and are participating in our own project posted on TWICE. We have many more responses than we will be able to use for partners. This project has the students studying weather (2nd grade curriculum in our state) and participating with a partner class twice, once in March and once in late May. We will use the state standards and lessons as we share our local weather information and activities over these two conferences. The project set-up easily uses science skills, presentation skills (oral communication), study and research skills. The actual interactions are similar to presenting a play or skit, and a lot of fun, too.

    One goal I have for our school as we begin our seventh year of interactive videoconferencing, is to reach not only for the excellent content programs from our state and national institutions, but to tailor our own projects to fit our specific students, their skills, their content, and their needs for growth.

    Wednesday, July 22, 2009

    Geocaching with iPhone

    More Learning Fun
    While checking out the geocaching website, I saw one of the thousands of apps for an iPhone - Geocaching with the iPhone- only $10! Even in this small town of about 2500 people, there are geocaches! Going out this morning to check out the one that is only .3 miles from my home and on the way to school. Ideas fly with using this technology for education. Of course it easily fits into 4th grade and up with the latitude and longitude, but can also work into so many other categories. Some of the amazing uses are introducing information, reviewing information, combining subjects--concrete examples:
  • one geocache for each of the 5 common verterbrates (mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians) or add the 2 common inverterbrates for 7 geocaches, (insects and spiders)
  • one geocache for each of the basic soil types (sand, silt, clay)
  • one geocache for each of the 7 biomes (tundra, taiga, temperate forest, tropical rain forest, desert, grassland, ocean)
  • one geocache for a food chain list (from sun to plant to rabbit to fox - 2nd grade)
    And the list goes on.

    There are simple geocache handhelds on the website, too. Working in groups of 2-5, students can share the jobs and experience collaborative learning as they locate, define, process, and record information.
  • Thursday, July 16, 2009

    Good-bye to NC Teacher Academy

    Today we pack up, leave the dorm, go to breakfast, go to class - typical student day. In class, we finish our projects, upload them to moodle, complete reflections, and wrap up our details. It has been an interesting class. We have enjoyed the week very much. We have some really good ideas to implement next year. Thanks, Teacher Academy!

    We'll have an interesting conversation in the car as we polish-up our ideas to implement geocaching, PhotoStory3, and Senteo's in our classrooms.

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    PhotoStory 3

    Tuesday had us reading The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman and using the pictures we had taken on Monday while pursuing the geocaches. This was put together in PhotoStory3 as a beginning project.

    Wednesday had us completing Oliver and beginning a curriculum based PhotoStory3. We listened to grant writing suggestions and saw a video on allowing 21st century skills in schools.

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Geocaching - Monday, July 13, 2009

    Wet and rainy - 15 caches to locate. Can we do it? We found 11 out of 15 while juggling rain gear, umbrellas, cameras, voice recorders, logging responses on paper, and thunder/lightning. Later we found one of the caches had the wrong coordinates. Great food and some rest refreshed us.

    Monday, July 13, 2009

    GeoCaching - NC Tech Teacher Academy

    Today we're off - we are a team 6 - to locate 15 caches around ECU. Lots of walking, maybe some rain (80% chance) but only 80 degrees! Should be fun - after a few tries, we can try some digital recording for an introductory student video. Students you are going to love this!

    Geocaching is an electronic scavenger hunt. Using satellite technology, the gps locates several satellites and the reader screen has a latitude and longitude and altitude.

    We are using a digital camera, an audio recorder, a gps unit, and being the lucky 4th person on the team, I will be using the hd digital camera to record (love being behind the camera instead of in front of the camera).

    Cool - we can really use these skills to locate historical locations in and around Forsyth County and share with other 4th grade classes in NC. We are in the piedmont region and would love to share with schools in the mountains and coastal plains.

    Sunday, July 12, 2009

    Teacher Tech Academy - Our Adventure Begins

    Mrs. Howard, Mrs. McDermon, Ms. Leonard, and Mrs. Throckmorton (all teachers at Rural Hall School) began a great adventure traveling to ECU for the 21st Century Classroom: Digital Learning Environment at NC Teacher Academy.

    The fun began in the car on the 214 mile trip from Rural Hall to Greenville. We laughed and shared ideas for next year. Talked about vacations, good books to read, and had some "catch up" time that teachers rarely get. We had a great meal and fantastic accommodations in a spacious new dorm. The first class was an introduction to the locals at the University and the instructors for this week.
  • 21st century strategies
  • 21st century technology tools
  • GPS devices, GeoCaching, digital cameras
  • Google Earth, Picasa, Audacity, Audio recorders
  • PhotoStory 3, Grantwriting, Moodle, Smart Software

    Monday - 1st Full Day - GeoCaching - Will we get lost? We will survive the summer southern heat? WIll we have fun? Yes! Tune in tomorrow for the fun details!
  • Friday, July 10, 2009

    NC Technology Teacher Academy

    On Sunday afternoon, I go with a team of 4th grade teachers from my school to East Carolina University for a 5 day class in 21st century technology skills. This is an active grade level and we should have a lot of fun while learning new ways to involve and interest students in cooperative, interactive learning. Watch for updates.

    Tuesday, June 30, 2009

    Summer - Tech Refresh

    Time to reflect. School's out; vacation on the outer banks with relaxing family memories; time to complete some projects and take a few online classes and update some of my skills.

    Currently I'm in week two of a three week PB Works Summer Camp. This online free class gives teachers a free upgrade pb wiki for a year. I currently have two, one for our school and one for my own personal learning network. It will take some thought to decide what to do with the free wiki, but I'm sure it will be good use for my students.

    An uncompleted project is adding some laptops to the student group that can be checked out from the library. Then, there is a week at Teacher Tech Academy. Next is another online class and that will complete July. In August there is a presentation with Peg Kirk from NCSSM to some principals about videoconferencing. Also, I'll probably be at work the first couple of weeks to move and rename computers to accommodate changes in staff and several other miscellaneous changes. There is also a family wedding and that will also have some "tech" time, so all in all, it will be a busy summer when you add in some reading for pleasure time, gardening, treadmill, walking the dogs, and more home cooking. These unpaid two months off are so important in refreshing, updating, re-energizing and keeping the excitement in learning.

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009

    Digital Flat Stanley 2008-09

    Today we mailed home our four participating Flat Stanley's -- safe journey to you Flats! This fantastic project produced by Heather Weisse Walsh, sends each participating classroom of students to four different locations through-out the school year. What fun, learning, and excitement for communication this project brings to our students. We posted on the Digital Flat Stanley Wiki, too.

    Outside the distance learning classroom, we posted a big US map and put small Flat Stanley's on each town we visited through-out the school year. That's 16 different cities, so our students learned a lot of geography. We shared weather, our communities, our state's, and favorite things. We took some cool pictures from our town, county, and state to share with the other locations that also gave some history, famous landmarks, and businesses and colleges located in their areas. We made large photos from our digital pics to share with our partner Flat Stanley classes. We shared poems, skits, favorite foods and favorite school subjects. We mainly learned that having Flat Stanley allowed us to learn a lot of different things in a fun way. We ended each of the sixteen journeys with a videoconference to see and talk to the students in the partner class.

    Journey 1
    Ms. Sisson's 1st grade traveled to Ms. Stelly's class in Houston, Texas.
    Ms. Hollifield's 2nd grade traveled to Ms. Marino's class in West Orange, New Jersey.
    Ms. Hicks' 3rd grade traveled to Ms. Koch's class in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
    Ms. Morefield's 3rd grade traveled to Ms. Hunter's class in Hopewell, Ohio.

    Journey 2
    Ms. Sisson's Flat Stanley traveled from Houston, Texas to Mr. Isselman's class in Birdsboro, PA.
    Ms. Hollifield's Flat Stanley traveled from West Orange, NJ to Ms. Rowe's class in Douglasville, PA.
    Ms. Hicks' Flat Stanley traveled from Nazareth, PA to Mr. Graham's class in Magnolia, Ohio.
    Ms. Morefield's Flat Stanley traveled from Hopewell, Ohio to Ms. Eisenhard's class in Birdsboro, PA.

    Journey 3
    From Birdsboro, PA, Ms. Sisson's Flat Stanley traveled to Ms. Brown's class in Norristown, PA.
    From Douglasville, PA, Ms. Hollifield's Flat Stanley traveled to Ms. George's class in Houston, TX.
    From Magnolia, Ohio, Ms. Hicks' class traveled to Ms. Henderson's class in Irving, TX.
    From Birdsboro, PA, Ms. Morefield's class traveled to Ms. Mueller's class in Houston, TX.

    Journey 4
    Leaving Norristown, PA, Ms. Sisson's Flat traveled to Ms. Graap's class in Fairfax, VA.
    Leaving Houston, TX, Ms. Hollifield's Flat traveled to Ms. Haber's class in Waymart, PA.
    Leaving Irving, TX, Ms. Hicks' Flat traveled to Ms. Cleveland's class in Steelton, PA.
    Leaving Houston, TX, Ms. Morefield's Flat traveled to Ms. Pries' class in West Chester, PA.

    Now all Flat Stanley's are going on the last journey, home to Rural Hall School. We have learned a lot and had a fantastic time sharing and meeting students around the US. Have a great summer, Flat Stanley and read a lot and be safe. We'll look for you next year! ;-)

    Sunday, May 24, 2009

    Educational Technology and Common Sense

    Ask someone to define common sense and you may get similar answers. Ask someone what actions constitute common sense and you get a whole range of activities and these do not all fit into a neat box of common sense. Some of this could be generational as we do form opinions, produce actions of acceptance, based on the code of our teachings by parents and teachers and friends. Take "manners" for example. Good manners we could probably all agree are important for students to learn as they make dealing with people in all age ranges and from all different cultures easier, but manners vary from cultural groups to social groups to economic groups.

    This is just one example of how difficult it is to define activities as "good educational ideas." From my viewpoint in the world, it is simply my version of "common sense." When I was teaching math in 3rd grade, I had an after-school club two days a week that was voluntary for any of my students to attend. We used puzzles, games, measured and built bird houses, etc. We cooked at least twice a month in class measuring and discussing the fractions and measurement standards in the recipes. We copied the recipes, and for Thanksgiving, planned a whole meal with everyone participating in donating an item. This was an opportunity to think backwards and figure out what needed to be prepared first, etc. for all of the dishes to be ready to eat at the same time. There was also washing and clean-up as we discussed not using paper or plastic products to keep from adding to the landfills. I spent 15 years in a regular elementary classroom teaching 1st, 2nd, and then 3rd grade, trying to focus on what made sense to teach children basics and provide thinking and reflecting opportunities. In 1984 I used an Atari game machine hooked-up to a small TV to teach time. This game machine became educational with the additional of a tape-recorder that loaded the time/clock game. The students could choose hour, half-hour, quarter-hour, and minutes. Also in use was a cartridge for Logo. This was a simple version to teach children basic programming using a turtle. The turtle moved with the commands that you typed. We used a big green paper turtle shell to put over one student and the class could literally see the turtle move when we gave directions. (Remember to always begin with concrete activities with young children.) This easily transferred to task cards with pictures of the turtle making a box, triangle, other shapes. We were building steps in logical thinking. Some might call this "problem based learning," but it is just common sense to me.

    Now I work with technology with the students and staff. My how technology has changed our lives and thankfully, the classroom, too. Our students have a daily, live, in-house TV news program to share simple information while learning about oral communication, some computer jobs, and producing the final broadcast. Our students also use a weather station to compile a weather report and forecast daily. We began with a GLOBE station and recorded this information for 4 years, earning a national award for quality data. We changed to a Davis Advantage Pro electronic weather station that collects data every hour. This data was used in our computer lab for teaching databases. Common sense. This broadcast combines many skills and is an excellent way to share with our students in a real world situation something that they often see at home on TV and have the connection to actual work.--Common sense to me.

    Our school also uses interactive videoconferencing (for six years). WOW! This is a biggie! Step back and think about what this means for our children. Our students have access to experts at our state institutions and museums. These folks send boxes of materials to us and our only cost is the return shipping. Can you imagine being a first grader and actually handling a dinosaur fossil! We don't spend hours on the school bus traveling down the highways, we spend time on task in our safe school building. One year's worth of field trips easily paid for expensive equipment, but you can also videoconference with inexpensive equipment. We did this last year with a free camera and free polycom communicator and a laptop. We shared our news broadcast with a school in New Jersey and they shared their broadcast with us. We don't miss out on opportunities because we can videoconference with experts and with other students around our state (Carolina Connections), country (Digital Flat Stanley), and world (Megaconference Jr., Pittsburgh Megaconference, Read Around the Planet). Our students make contact with other classrooms in classroom to classroom activities and projects. They use the school wiki to collaborate on work with other classrooms in our school system and in the world. This is practical experience with writing, oral communication, technology (skills), and learning to work in groups. These are skills our students need to survive in our global world economy. Common sense to me.

    Our county talks about "rethinking the possibilities" and I think our "common sense" approach has helped our students to do this by learning in new ways the standard curriculum we need our students to master. Who knows what is next in the technology world or the world where we live? We will continue to use common sense to bridge what we need to teach to the real world for our students.

    Sunday, May 10, 2009


    There is always something new to learn - I've seen this term around for awhile and never knew what it was or had the time to check it out. Meme - Pronounced "mem" by some and "meam" by some - whatever the pronunciation, it carries this type of meaning:
  • An idea that, like a gene, can replicate and evolve.
  • A unit of cultural information that represents a basic idea that can be transferred from one individual to another, and subjected to mutation, crossover and adaptation.
  • A cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one generation to another by nongenetic means (as by imitation); "memes are the cultural counterpart of genes".

  • The ones I've seen are people with same interests "tagging" other people and making lists about that interest.

    So, here goes,
    My meme list for instructional tech:

    help others find effective ways to use tech
    continual updates and learning for myself
    trying new equipment and software
    taking classes
    wiki projects
    live in-house broadcasts

    What would you add to the list?

    Tuesday, May 5, 2009

    Alaska SeaLife Center

    Our kindergarten students are enjoying a visit with the Alaska SeaLife Center as they learn about sea birds. For 55 minutes, the classes learn through various means, watching actual fish tanks of swimming sea lions and harbor seals, video of specific birds, parts of birds (wing size, webbed feet, beaks, placement of feet--further back on body than regular birds, which allows them to swim easier), worksheet of bird parts, and finally, making a clay tufted puffin. Wow!

    Friday, April 24, 2009

    NCDLA - Virtual Conference

    Finally stopped for one hour today to listen, watch, & interact in a virtual conference instead of attending in person. Really good experience. We used elluminate; it worked very well. Heard keynote speaker Marci Powell, past president of USDLA and Polycom Global Director for Higher Education. Her topic: Connect, Collaborate, Create. She mentioned a couple of books I want to read, one is Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody, and The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. She spoke of web 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0 (artificial intelligence). She shared about Abileen Christian Univeristy in Texas; they issue iPhones to all incoming freshmen who use them for traditional, online, & blended classes. The phones give the directions to the buildings on campus and interact with the students and profs in several ways. Also shown was Duke University's Telepresence and the Fuqua Global Conference System. Really cool stuff! I didn't realize that Polycom was working/supporting CAPspace, a fantastic source (database) for finding partners for projects that are classroom to classroom via videoconference. She spoke of the "3 R's plus Applied Skills" -- communication, problem solving, and team work/collaboration. This lead to the quote that I just love, "We must prepare students for their future and not our past." (David Thornberg)

    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    Earth Day Celebration

    We enjoyed learning and sharing Earth Day with students on the school news and at an "Earth Day Learning Station" series of activities in the school courtyard.

    Students shared their knowedge on different topics as other classes walked through the exhibits. Students signed an Earth Day pledge and also made a personal pledge in their classroom. Some of these are in vidcasts on the school podcast link.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    IVC - PPS Megaconference

    This morning Ms. Leonard's 4th graders watched as Allderdice High School presented "My Trip to the Polar Bears." Then we disconnected for a NC Museum of History videoconference and after reconnected to Pittsburgh. Ms. Throckmorton's class of 4th graders interacted with PGH Murray and another school as Arlington ALA presented AfricQuest in a Jeopardy format. We had a lot of fun and learned a lot of interesting things about the continent, Africa. BTW, we came in second out of three. At the second roll call, Ms. McDermon chimed in hello from North Carolina (our classes were at lunch and unavailable).

    Today some of our classes participated in the Pittsburgh Public Schools Megaconference. We interacted with two other schools as the fourth school presented. It was great!
    Last, Ms. Verner's 3rd grade class participated int he "Discover West African Rhythms" (drums) presented by Eau Claire High School. Two Pittsburgh schools participated with us also, as we thumped out our drumming sounds.

    We love learning and sharing with videoconferencing!

    Thursday, April 16, 2009


    Next Thursday, April 23 we are connecting to the Carolina Center for Excellence to share IVC with K-12 media and technology specialists who are there for a two day meeting/workshop. We are happy to share our experiences in videoconferencing. Each time we connect to another school, classroom, state, or country, we learn new things, make new understandings and connections to people. What a concrete way for students to learn similarities and differences, one of the basic lessons in elementary social studies and, most important, "civil" living--sharing this globe, we need to reach out to others to understand, build respect, and develop ways to share and understand other people and cultures.

    On Thursday, April 30, we are connecting to the International Education Group at the School of Education at UNC to share our experiences with videoconferencing. Again, this is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the face to face connections we make every week between students at our school in Rural Hall, NC to students in other towns around the world.

    Sunday, April 5, 2009


    The fast paced hurry of projects usually has the satisfaction on completion and the slower pace of a few days. Relief! Then the process usually begins again, roller coaster style, up and down. The pace seems quicker and the changes come faster--that's today's world. SETDA (State Educational Technology Directors Association) presents their "Class of 2020: Action Plan for Education" giving five topic areas.

  • Broadband Access for All Kids
  • STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics
  • Technology Based Assessments Improve Teaching and Learning
  • Empowering Teachers: A Professional and Collaborative Approach
  • Learning Virtually: Expanding Oportunities

  • At the school level, we depend on the districts and states to take care of the access, improve the standards in STEM, and the virtual schools. On the school level, this leaves us two items on the list, assessments and empowering teachers in a collaborative approach. Follow the links to get the reports, PowerPoints and other information downloads.

    Friday, April 3, 2009

    Measuring 21st Century Skills

    eSchool News has a new site with resources and information about measuring the 21st century skills. This quote is why we should be looking for all the good quality resources we can find for our students. "Our country's global economic success in the future depends on K-20 graduates honing their "21st Century Skills." Today's tech-savvy generation has no shortage of user-friendly devices...and they know how to use them. But are they putting these tech skills to good use? You've heard of the 3Rs, but what about the 5Cs such as critical thinking, creative problem solving, communications, collaboration and cross-cultural relationship building?"

    Monday, March 30, 2009

    Insect Research

    Ms. Throckmorton's 4th grade class checked-out the laptop cart last week and did some science research. Today, they presented their products in posters, print, and art from various modes -- paper mache, drawings, clay. Wow! What a super job!

    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    Technology Facilitator or Instructional Technologist

    Our school system has a Technology Facilitator at each school in our county. We do the double job of helping with the technical updates and repairs of equipment and also facilitate good technology instruction. An Instructional Technologist is a specialist in using technology in instruction. Today I realized that this (tech fac) is like driving my car. I can drive it, but don't understand how it works--I flip a switch and my windshield wipers come on, twist a knob and my wipers will vary the speed. Works for me! My husband and a good car repair shop take care of the rest for me. I'm capable of the basic updates and repairs with the telephone help I receive. This is not my strength, but I can do it. Then there is the instructional end. That's where I can not only understand the instruction, purpose, and goals, but see the applications and new ways to use software and hardware to give students new experiences in learning, and in learning collaboratively. This is where I'm an eager learner, trying to figure it out and move on to extend or create new ways to help learners reach his/her potential.

    I've often thought, "I have the best job in the state." I can work with students, staff, and the expert technical people in my county, along with other instructional technologists, technology facilitators, and eager learners to give our students the activities and possibilities in learning that they deserve. We reach out to our state, other states, and countries through our videoconferencing and utilize our wonderful state museums and institutions to give our students the BEST education possible. Then, recommend the simple, yet tried and true ways of experienced teaching -- having students write or reflect on their experiences. Offering to help teachers by blogging this student work, gives the students the opportunity to make the connections, use the new knowledge gained and have the time to connect this old and new learning together into new ideas. Then having the work posted and sharing this experience with families and community who comment on the web work of the students, offers the students yet another opportunity to rethink the information, reorder it, and feel accomplished and proud of the work. This is a building process. Building students who want to learn and be excited learners, and responsible for their own learning. I feel strongly that this is something our students need in 21st century learning.

    Sunday, March 22, 2009

    Multiple Intelligences

    Found a link on Twitter for a Multiple Intelligences test. It gives information on the different intelligence forms, and then a 40 item test that shows results in a graph with strengths and weaknesses. A few of the questions seemed a little "guided" in the wording, but overall it was an interesting experience that may help students focus on how they learn and how they can improve.

    Sunday, March 15, 2009

    Read Around the Planet

    Ms. Sisson's 1st grade class participated in Read Around the Planet with Long Island City, NY. The students enjoyed sharing. Ms. Sisson's class has been studying the United States, so they shared some of the symbols with the other class, sang a song and enjoyed presenting. They also enjoyed watching the other class present.

    Ms. Tucker's 1st grade class participated in Read Around the Planet with a class from Texas. Her class wrote poems they put into a book. Each child read his/her poem and enjoyed hearing the other class read and sing. They all danced and sang to music; the experience was completed with questions and answers.

    Last Friday I tried the website with a fifth grade class. The students loved it and most caught on quickly. They helped each other with minor questions, but overall it was a great first class. The classroom teacher and the students liked the possibility of using this website to share a project instead of a written paper or regular "poster board." Our only unusual occurrence was that a few students came up with a blocked message. The "edu" site allows the students to share only with their class.

    Friday, March 6, 2009


    I've spent the last two days at the NCTIES conference in Raleigh. My head is spinning and it will take a few days to reflect, read my notes, and share some thoughts. Our school system is also posting on their wiki; check it out to see many postings from attendees in our county. There are several pics posted on the Rural Hall School quick pic blog.

    Some of the very good websites from the conference are:

    Tools for the Classroom
    Tools for the Classroom Blog
    Fantastic Contraption
    My Studio -- creates online quizzes
    One True Media
    U Stream
    Quantum Shift
    Yack Pack
    Apple Tutorials (now all are free)
    NC Wise Owl -- eBistro

    Enjoyed these sessions and interactions so much I'm adding a new wiki as my own learning network base for technology and schooling, adding to this "flatter" blog and my videoconferencing ning page.

    Tuesday, March 3, 2009

    Read Around the Planet - More Exciting Conferences

    Ms. Whicker's kindergarten class enjoyed presenting to Ms. Felt's class in Van Etten, New York on Feb. 25 in honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday. Ms. Van Etten's class sang a song and both classes of students danced to the directions. Great job, folks!

    With snow the past two days, we will have to reschedule the remaining three RAP conferences.

    Ms. Tucker's class at Rural Hall and Ms. Bolton's class in Paris, Texas will be rescheduled. Ms. Sisson's class and Ms. Burke's class in Long Island City, NY will be rescheduled. Ms. Leonard's class and Ms. Woodbridge's class in Edmonton, Canada will be rescheduled.

    Sunday, March 1, 2009

    Thinking Out Loud

    One thing I do daily is look through emails, websites, and listservs. Of course, google reader is helpful. Originally I was looking for sources to create my position of "distance learning coordinator." I wasn't quite sure what that was, so being the dutiful student, searched and found a good online course at Univ. of West Ga. offering a year long course with a Distance Learning Certificate. That began my new adventure from a K-5 classroom teacher to interactive videoconferencing in 1998.

    Some of the listservs and websites that have been helpful in my area are:
  • International Society of Technology in Education -
  • Global Leap --
  • Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration --
  • NCIH - K-12 Videoconferencing --
  • NCSSM --
  • NC Museum of History --
  • NC Museum of Natural Sciences --
  • NC Wildlife Resources --
  • NASA Digital Learning Network --
  • Collaborations Around the Planet --
  • Read Around the Planet --
  • COSI --
  • ISTE Ning Community --
  • Southwest Net Distance Learning --
  • Connect 2 Texas --
  • MAGPI --
  • Harvard Graduate School of Education --
  • Self Learning Links --
  • Saint Louis Zoo DL --
  • Reef HQ Aquarium --

  • Another thing that has made it easier for me is my .mac membership, which makes podcasts and vidcasts streamlined processes. We take a couple of hundred pictures every week and send them to the local weekly newspaper, make movies of them for our news introduction, post on blogs and wikis, and send home to parents on a yahoo group listserv. Of course, we obtain permission from all students for videoconferencing and posting pictures. This helps build a school "community" and ownership for students and staff and culminates in 5th grade students participating in the school news program. -- I believe I've definitely left the original topic and rambled a bit here. Still waiting for the snow.

    Saturday, February 28, 2009


    Last day of Februrary and this is probably the busiest month for us in videoconferencing at Rural Hall School. We still have three more Read Around the Planet connections next week, but in the past two weeks have completed Megaconference Jr. and three Read Around the Planets along with two digital Flat Stanley's besides our regular museum visits. Time to take a breath!

    Next week is the NCTIES conference in Raleigh. Looking forward to going and listening, learning, watching, and refreshing, not presenting. It's good to have time out to learn and not be "producing."

    Hopefully the sleet, ice, and snow due tonight and tomorrow won't slow us down. :-)

    Just received a kindal reader Thursday. Like it so far. Although it has been quite a long time since I read something for pleasure and not for work. Bought two books for it. Quite easy to use. Although one of the books I bought I've actually already read! Maybe a snow storm and something new to read (pleasure reading) would be good!

    Saturday afternoon and just checked the computer lab for a horrible virus that seems to be around our county. None found here - thank goodness! Scans complete and time to go home.

    Friday, February 27, 2009

    More Read Around the Planet

    On Tuesday, Ms. Throckmorton's 4th grade class participated in Read Around the Planet with a class in Long Island City, New York. Ms. Throckmorton's class did a short version of their Megaconference Jr. skit on "History Mystery: North Carolina." The students did a skit on Blackbeard and the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke Island. The partner class shared information about their town and read student stories. The classes decided to continue their partnership.

    Monday, February 23, 2009

    Read Around the Planet

    What a great way to celebrate reading! Ms. Church's kindergarten class in Rural Hall, NC read to Ms. Coxson's kindergarten class in Dallas, Texas this morning. Ms. Coxson's class performed "The Three Little Pigs" play for us. Fantastic!

    We have two more this week and three next week - These children have put a lot of work into their productions and are enjoying reading and sharing. Watch for the podcasts soon.

    Saturday, February 21, 2009

    Megaconference Jr. 2009

    Wow! What a great day of activities, experiences, and learning! Ms. Howard's class enjoyed the segment on Obama's Inauguration and first 100 days. They returned to their classroom for a debate. Ms. Leonard's class enjoyed the idioms segment. The students played along and enjoyed guessing.

    The interactions between the participants, activities, and the wonderful VJ's was amazing. Of course, the behind the scenes technology folks were excellent! -- Thanks to all for making this possible! Our students learned and gained experiences from this experience.

    Our students did a great job and enjoyed a pizza party after their presentation.

    Congratulations, students! Check the wiki for their reports, movies, and a poll.

    Pictures taken that day.

    Thursday, February 12, 2009

    Wiki Use - Challenges

    We are working on year two of our school wiki. It has definitely been a growing experience! As with much technology, it looks cool and fun, but does it have an educational purpose besides technology? We have grown into wiki usage; we seem to reach a learning point and it expands rather quickly after that. The recent article by Wheeler, Yeomans, & Wheeler (2008) at Wake Forest University points out the instructional uses. These include motivation (meaningful assignments), participation/collaboration, affirmation (all can post and edit),and synthesis. These are higher level skills and exactly what we want our students to use.

    For our Megaconference Jr. 2009 project, we are collaborating with a middle school class. The 4th and 8th graders have made reports and teachers are posting on the wiki (due to time). Students can then download and edit and repost or compile the information into a newer version. We are learning and finding some things work well and are fairly easy while others will take more time and may need different strategies. Wiki usage, like many other technologies, is a building and growing process. Teachers and students are learning together -- students using the tool of technology while gaining the power of collaborative skills, and teachers defining and sharpening teaching and collaborative skills while redefining pedagogy. Both are learning new tools and skills for personal learning networks. Not just redefining "life-long learners," but addressing personal learning styles and skills and developing processes that give all participants new ways to address how they learn and what they choose to learn.

    The project is February 19, so next month, we hope to post reflections of our work and the process we have used.

    Thursday, February 5, 2009

    Faster - Tech Dollars and Innovation

    If you haven't realized it yet, change is the new "standard" or "constant" in life today, whether it is banking, shopping, education, whatever. And all of it is touched by technology. The recent article in THE Journal by Chris Riedel points our what is going on in education and how we can work on making it better. This article refers to Mark Benno's talk at FETC in Orlando. Interesting fact: "Nine out of 10 students don't wear wristwatches." What do they do? They use other technology - cell phones, music players (mine shows time and date), computers, other tech gear usually has date and time - often in many time zones. He goes on to say that it takes educators about seven years to adapt to new technology and integrate it into the curriculum (going through five stages: entry, adoption, adaptation, appropriation, innovation). Unfortunately, technology changes so much faster than that. The good news is that research shows that with professional development it takes two and one-half years instead of seven years to total integration and innovation. Hooray! Save those dollars in the budgets for instructional technology--even in tight budget times, these dollars allow better usage of dollars already spent on the hardware and software while giving students relevant and timely instruction. Whether we keep up or not, our students use technology in many ways. Allowing students to collaborate--use a wiki--share information, revise, and continue sharing and refining is one of the answers to collaborative learning. It is practical. Thinking and problem solving has always been a goal, now it has gone global and collaboration with technology is certainly that. It used to be, "what do you know?" Then it was "how do you find or locate it?" Now it is choosing "what technologies you use to solve your problems."

    Thursday, January 29, 2009

    Megaconfernce Jr.

    In the midst of all the work with our students to prepare for Megaconference Jr. and our dress rehearsal, we are loosing our Principal of 17 years. He is retiring tomorrow. Last month our Assistant Principal retired. Our school, students and staff, are off on new adventures as we continue our learning and growing. We will miss our former leaders and wish them the best.

    This year in Megaconference Jr. we have two interactive partners (both from the U.S.) and our 4th graders are working with 8th graders from a middle school, Kennedy Learning Center, in Winston-Salem. In North Carolina, the students in 4th and 8th grades study the state. So these older students are taking a lead while working with our 4th graders to share a skit, student movie, and Jeopardy game with our interactive partners. All of this takes place in 30 minutes while the world watches. We will spend the rest of the day doing such things as watching other productions in Megaconference and being the interactive partner in some of these productions -- all of this takes place in less than three weeks! Now that will wake up the winter doldrums!

    Check-out Janine Lim's blog on Megaconference Jr. - She gives some great tips!