Friday, July 31, 2009

Update on Pilot!

Today Hattie Deraps, alternative teacher at Mt. Blue High School, and I met for the final time this summer. We have covered many topics over the three days we spent together and will take the rest of the year exploring them as our statewide pilot progresses.

One area we spent a fair amount of time on is the relevance of the social networking provided for our students through the internet - i. e. twitter, facebook, etc. - and how it will reshape our students' lives - socially and cognitively. Hattie shared this online story from NCTE as an example of what is happening in "real time" for our students.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Writing for Now -- Declaring an Audience

This week I heard a newscast on NPR, "Twitter Seen As Tool For Change In China" (NPR Morning Edition July 24, 2009). The gist of the newscast, that some Chinese NGOs held a training course to teach citizen journalists how to use Twitter and other new media in their reporting, made me think of Tiffany Monk, the Florida teenager mentioned in Writing in the 21st Century, the NCTE report by Kathleen Blake Yancey. Tiffany like many young people, already knows how to compose for the audiences she chooses. Tiffany’s mobile home park was flooding with rain from Tropical Storm Fay and Tiffany knew there were many elderly and disabled people who would be unable to get out. 9-1-1 wasn’t an option, so Tiffany took pictures of the mobile home park, posted them on her computer, and sent them out in emails asking for help. Everyone was saved!

Tiffany is like most of our students. She already knows how to compose and, given an occasion, she knows what she wants to say and to whom she wants to say it. We need to encourage this in all our students.

On February 23, 2009, NCTE held a press conference to introduce Writing in the 21st Century and the National Day on Writing. Two speakers who joined Kathi Yancey during the conference talked about writing today in schools. Dan Brown and his student Mansur Muhammad from SEED Public Charter School, Washington, D.C , talked about writing—teaching it and doing it-- both in an out of school.

Dan’s the author of the blog Get in the Fracas and his July 7 entry states in underlined bold, “Students need more than just their teacher to be their audience in order to unlock their finest potential.” This blog entry, “The Importance of “Going Public,” echoing the title of an NCTE publication Go Public! Encouraging Student Writers to Publish by Susanne Rubenstein, emphasizes the need for us to design school writing assignments that push students to write to audiences beyond the teacher and the school. Another NCTE book, Designing Writing Assignments by Traci Gardner, and many ReadWriteThink lessons give us tips on how to help students work with various audiences in their writing.

I have to agree with Dan and with another idea that Kathi Yancey points out in Writing in the 21st Century. 21st century writers write in order to take action, to make a connection. As teachers, we need to provide our students with the opportunity to make those connections, using whatever tools are available and certainly starting with the tools the students are already using. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, agreed with this philosophy in his interview with Rachel Dretzin of PBS Frontline: Digital_Nation on July 14, suggesting to the surprise of many that teachers have students use cell phones for class work.

For me, having students “Go Public” to their selected audience, using the tools of technology that many are already using outside of school, and taking action are three vital components of the writing assignments I need to design for my students. I’ll need to often be more spontaneous than in the past to take advantage of current situations for writing, I’ll need to allow for students to pursue many different topics and audiences, and I’ll probably need instruction from some of my students on the workings of the tools while some of my students will need instructions on the same from their classmates or me.

I’m guessing, too, that like me you’d like examples of writings produced in this 21st century fashion. Here’s an idea for how we can get just that. Let’s have our students publish their writings to the National Gallery of Writing. I’d really love to read self-initiated compositions on issues important to students: a text message or Twitter exchange, a video, some prewriting notes, an article, a letter, or poem. I’m inviting you to see if your students have such compositions, particularly from their out-of-school lives. Have them publish to a local gallery that you start or to the NCTE Gallery.

This article is an excellent confirmation of the study I posted yesterday regarding the students' use of technology outside of school. Hattie has observed the same behavior with her students and has found that the use of technology in her classroom has motivated her students to participate in class enthusiastically - completing assignments and enjoying them, factors all educators know enhance learning.

We can validate these observations with writing research that emphasizes the importance of a real audience with a real purpose to motivate writers. Technology provides our students with these elements by instantly publishing their writing regarding pertinent topics on websites or blogs and allowing for real reader feedback - instantly.

When we look at such social networks as facebook and twitter, we are providing our students with the same opportunities - but within a more informal, frequent context. This is exciting within the high school context, since it provides older students with the opportunity to continue to develop fluency.

A stumbling block for many of us is our lack of experience with the social networks made available to us through technology. Hattie and I discussed this at length. We concluded this medium addressed important issues for our students - a shrinking global community and the appropriate understandings and behaviors involved when interacting with others, clarity and precision of communication, flexible thinking, etc.

(Of course we wondered into Costa's Habits of Mind more on that later).

Given the meta-cognitive framework we both embrace, we focused on the importance of modeling in this area and agreed - after lengthy discussion - that teachers need to have first hand experience in order to model for students - keeping it real. Hattie has been on face book for some time and we discussed that experience. She has found it beneficial for modeling and for keeping students involved and connected within her classroom. So--I signed up!

For the coming year, we will be exploring how to identify trends in responses and identify big ideas - a crucial reading strategy for comprehending in this age of information.

Hattie will be exploring this in her classroom throughout this coming year. We hope her research will culminate in a webinar in March of 2010.

Stay tuned and please share any thoughts or comments with us.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Study Indicates Teens Feel Technology Improves their Learning

Teens Take on Technology at School

Written by Angela Titone, Senior Manager, CEA Research Library

A recent study on teen students done by the Consumer Electronics Organization, was recently released. The findings overwhelmingly indicated that teens believe technology improves their academics. Of special interest, was the area of homework.

"Teens want more technology to be implemented into the educational process, and they are finding ways to include these tools themselves," said Jessica Boothe of Strategic Research.

Angela Titone has summarized and reviewed the findings of the research study on line. It confirms much of what we have observed, but also raises some important questions for those of us in the classroom.

The article can be found at:

Teens Take on Technology at School

Monday, July 27, 2009

Back to School

As August approaches many of us are getting ready to return to school and our minds go into panic mode as we think of all of the new initiatives that face us. Often, we are eager, but overwhelmed - faced with the challenge of implementing the initiative in our classrooms. How will we find time to plan? Where do we begin?

Maine has invested a great deal of its limited resources in technology and will be moving ahead with 1 to 1 at the high school level this year.

With that in mind, I have spent some time searching the web to find resources to assist teachers. For me, technology is a see and play with it learning paradigm - so I have tried to find a resource that would provide good teacher examples of technology in the classroom.

The one I am sharing today is called Teachers First and was created by Cynthia Shively. Shively has dedicated most of her teaching career to integrating technology in the classroom and was honored by THE Journal for her work in June of this year. In the article they published about her they describe her site as follows:

"The site encompasses proprietary professional and classroom-ready content, as well as thousands of reviewed Web resources that offer a variety of content for all subjects in grades K through 12. According to Shively, TeachersFirst has thousands of members in 50 countries and averages more than 50,000 page views daily.

'We add about two dozen new resources every week,' said Shively. 'Some are created by TeachersFirst staff, and the rest are selected existing Web sites that are not only education-oriented, but also general interest sites that will add value in the classroom.' "

The following link gives you access to a matrix where lesson plans are orgaized by topic and grade level. Take a look. They might be ready made for you or you might get some good ideas.

Teachers First Content Matrix

If you like this resource, sign up for more free teacher resources at: The Source for Learning

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More Math Resources:) - Taken from Free Technology 4 Teachers

Math eBook - Math Lessons for K-12

Posted: 21 Jul 2009 05:43 AM PDT

Math eBook is an excellent collection of mathematics tutorials and worksheets. There are tutorials available in print and video form for all grade levels. The worksheets are available as PDF downloads or your students can use the worksheets in their online interactive form. To use a worksheet online, simply click the "virtual" link next to the tutorial. To use the PDF of a worksheet click on the "eWorkbook" link next to your desired tutorial. In addition to the video tutorials and worksheets, Math eBook offers a mathematics dictionary for student use.

Applications for Education
Math eBook could be a good general mathematics resource for teachers, students, and parents. The worksheets in PDF can be edited and used for classroom practice or homework assignments. In the virtual form, the worksheets could be a good review tool for students preparing for a quiz or test.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
Interactivate - Interactive Math Assessments
200+ Free Mathematics Books
Math Links You Might Have Missed

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Easy Way to Make Films and Record Events!

Great resource for teachers and so easy! Safe and monitored! Go to: School Tube

Click on Schools and find Dirigo Middle School.

Read the following 2 posts and let us know what you think:)

Are electronic textbooks ready for prime time?
Electronic textbooks have received mixed reviews from some college students, with many complaining that they make reading awkward or inconvenient. Educators are also divided on whether electronic texts are cost-effective, because they carry a high upfront cost. One California superintendent said elementary-school students quickly became engaged in course work with electronic textbooks, but there are no indications whether learning improved. The Wall Street Journal (7/20) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story

Click on the title for the complete article.

Taken from Smart Brief by ASCD.

On line Literature Classics Available to Download!!

Find free classic literature books at the following link:

It is published by the University at Adelaide, Australia. They are arranged by


Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Resources for Math!!

This month, many materials have been published for Math. Take a look and enjoy!

Please take the time to post a comment if you find anything helpful.

Following article taken from T.H.E. Journal.

The Math Worksheet Generator

Posted: 10 Jul 2009 02:36 PM PDT

The Math Worksheet Site offers a mix of free and paid worksheet generators. The free section of the site offers teachers twenty-three worksheet generators covering all aspects of elementary school level mathematics. There are a few options for customizing these worksheets to your liking. Most of the options regard the number of problems that are on each worksheet.

Both articles taken from Free Technology 4 Teachers by Mr. Byrne - click on the titles to see the complete articles and educational applications.

Visual Math Learning - Lessons and Games

Posted: 10 Jul 2009 01:54 AM PDT

Visual Math Learning, as the name implies, is a collection of visual lessons about mathematics concepts. The lessons cover all of the basics including fractions, division, decimals, and integers. After working through a lesson, students can practice using their newly acquired knowledge on various follow-up exercises and games. In all there are eighteen practice exercises and one dozen games.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Great Option for Teachers and Students - Taken from Free Technology 4 Teachers by R. Byrne

Friend Feed in Education

Click on the above title for the complete article.

Posted: 14 Jul 2009 05:38 AM PDT

Friend Feed is a microblogging platform that for some reason hasn't gained traction in the edublogging community the way that Twitter has. That's a shame because Friend Feed has some great features that make a superior communication tool compared to Twitter. I talked to a few people at NECC about the lack of Friend Feed adoption in the edublogging community. From those conversations it seems that people just aren't aware of what Friend Feed offers.

Wordle - Great Vocabulary - Grade Levels Offered

Taken from Free Tech 4 Teachers by Robert Bryne

Guess the Wordle and Summer Vacation Wordles

Posted: 12 Jul 2009 04:22 PM PDT

Wordle is a good tool for creating visual representations of the most commonly used words in a document or on a website. I've featured Wordle on this blog twice in the past. You can read those previous posts about Wordle here and here.

This morning I came across a new wiki called Guess the Wordle. Three times a week Guess the Wordle will post a new Wordle. Then based on the Wordle students can guess what the topic of the Wordle is. Guess the Wordle could be a fun warm-up activity to use with students.

While looking over Guess the Wordle I had a new (to me) thought about using Wordle in the classroom. Writing stories about summer vacation is an assignment that teachers commonly give at the beginning of the school year. This year, when you give that assignment have students create a Wordle when they are done writing their stories. The Wordles created from the stories could be used as a reflection tool by students and yourself to see what things from the summer vacation really stand out in a student's mind.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

More from Wikipedia - taken from freetech4teachers, July, 2009

Wiki Field Trip - Tour Wikipedia on a Map

Wiki Field Trip is a neat website for exploring Wikipedia entries about places around the world. Here's how it works, enter a city name on Wiki Field Trip and a series of placemarks appears on a Google Map of that city. Click on any of the placemarks to read the Wikipedia entry for that location.

Applications for Education
Wiki Field Trip could be useful for students to use to learn about a city or cities. Wiki Field Trip also provides a great model for students to use in the creation of a mapped tour of their own town, state, province, or country.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
WikiMapia - Wikipedia on a Map
Placeopedia - Wikipedia and Google Maps

Saturday, July 4, 2009

More than You Tube

Explore - Documentary Videos of the World

Posted: 25 Jun 2009 05:52 AM PDT produces and hosts high-quality documentary films and photographs. The films and images focus on exploring the world and the work of non-profit organizations around the world. The films and images are organized by destination. There are twelve destinations in all including China, Tibet, the Middle East, and India. is funded in part by the Annenburg Foundation.

All of the videos can be embedded into your blog or website. Embedded below is one of the shorter films from Explore. The video takes a brief look at China's Great Wall.

To read about applications in education click on the blue, underlined title above and go to the website for freetech4teachers.

Hurricane Season and Science

Hurricane Season - Hurricane Tracking in GE

Posted: 27 Jun 2009 03:46 AM PDT

It's officially Hurricane Season again in the United States. Just as they did last year, Google LatLong has announced the creation of a hurricane layer for Google Earth. You can access the layer under "weather" in Google Earth. As a part of that announcement from Google was a link to NOAA's National Hurricane Center. On the National Hurricane Center website you can find information about currently developing storms as well as archived records of past storms.

To read about possible applications in education click on the title above in blue and underlined.

Change on Library of Congress Website

New(er) Library of Congress Teachers' Page

Posted: 29 Jun 2009 06:01 AM PDT

This morning I attended a session about searching the resources of the Library of Congress. The session was intended to show people some of the newer changes to the Library of Congress website. The most obvious and significant change is the replacement of the "learner" page with a "teachers" page. The teachers page is arranged thematically with links to lesson plans, special collections, and primary source sets. In addition theses new collections and lesson plans, the LOC is developing a set of self-directed professional development tutorials. The purpose of the tutorials is to help teachers develop their knowledge of and skills for teaching with primary sources. Not all of the modules are live yet, but they should be live in time for the new school year this fall.

To read about the applications to education and locate some excellent information go to: