As Easy as Reading an Email – RSS in Outlook 2007

In these times of budget cuts, when teachers are being told there is no $ available for PD, they are beginning to depend on their PLN’s more important than ever. It is amazing how many teachers are reading blogs these days and even more amazing at how many are just now learning about the opportunities out there to learn from a global PLN.

Made in Wordle

At one of the last meetings with our training cohort, we talked about “what are” and “how to build PLN’s” (professional/personal learning networks). I shared how following blogs from other educators/experts in the field using Google Reader to subscribe to those blogs, can put them in charge of building their own capacities as eMINTS teachers. Google Reader is a great RSS aggregator but for those that forget to go to Google Reader another tool may work better…that would be your trusty Microsoft Outlook 2007……

If you haven’t notice (or didn’t know what it was) a folder called “RSS Feeds” with the little orange RSS image on top, can be found under your “Inbox” folder in Outlook 2007. It probably has a plus sign next to it and if you select it you will see an explanation on the right of what RSS is and how it can be of use to you. If you click the plus to the left of the folder you might notice it already has some subscriptions set up for you to some Microsoft Blogs. To see how to set up your own subscriptions check out this video from The Ideal Consultant and in 3 minutes he will get your RSS folder up and running and keeping you up-to-date with the newest content on the web. Now checking your blogs will be as simple as checking your email.

Be warned – the drawback to using Outlook is that when you don’t have access to your email you will also not have access to your blog subscriptions so decide what the best tool for you is and get started.

Some blogs we suggest you follow:
The Cool Cat Teacher Blog – http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/
The Clever Sheep – http://thecleversheep.blogspot.com/
Teachers Love SMART Boards – http://www.teacherslovesmartboards.com/
Weblogg-ed – http://weblogg-ed.com/
Suppl_eMINTS – http://supplemint.edublogs.org/

*for those using Google Reader and are loving it, they offer a Google Reader Help Page just for you with tips on getting started to formatting your reader and everything in between.

We would love to know what blogs you follow so leave a comment 🙂 and let us know.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can visit her site here or read her blog, Higgins’ Helpful Hints.

eMINTS 2.0

Image Source: http://www.studioroosegaarde.net/project/LiquidSpace6.0

In case you haven’t noticed, the eMINTS National Center is expanding our efforts to get the word out about the great work our staff and the teachers we serve do every day. This blog is just one way in which that effort comes to life. We’ll continue to post great ideas and innovations in teaching and technology on Networked Teaching & Learning.

In addition to the blog, be sure to join our Facebook group for the latest information regarding eMINTS as well as news of our teachers’ continued success. This group can also be a great way to connect with other eMINTS teachers and trainers.

Finally, I have set up a Twitter account to help get the eMINTS message out there to the Twitterverse. Follow me at @Zac_eMINTS and stay current on all things eMINTS related.

You too can participate in these efforts. Besides joining the Facebook group and following my Twitter feed, you can submit a post for this blog. We would love to have the input of our teachers and friends in the educational technology world. Simply follow this link to our Google Form and fill in the appropriate information. You can type your post directly into the form or copy and paste from another location.

In the meantime, check out what we’ve posted last week:

Puzzles as Community Builders

eMINTS Instructional Specialist Carla Chaffin brings us a great idea to use a puzzle as a community builder from BrainDen.com:

This would be great for a team or community builder with any group. You would not have to actually have the items on hand (scale and tennis balls). The puzzle is more for thinking through.

The puzzle Carla is suggesting is “Weighing IV” and works like this:

Weighing IV.
One of twelve tennis balls is a bit lighter or heavier (you do not know which) than the others. How would you identify this odd ball if you could use an old two-pan balance scale only 3 times?

You can only balance one set of balls against another, so no reference weights and no weight measurements.

The solution to this puzzle can be found here, but please visit BrainDen.com for more puzzles that will make your students think!

Micro Blogging for Students

Edmodo is a microblogging site designed with education in mind.  Teachers create a free account and can set up an online environment, which allows creation of groups, sharing of links and files, and an area for conversations but not private chats.  Gradebook and drop boxes are also included.  If you want to stay connected to your students at all times, Edomodo has a mobile phone application as well.  Edmodo is like taking Twitter and Facebook and tweaking them to be used in the educational setting.

More on Edmodo from Ms. De Santis’ Blog.

Carmen Marty is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.

Week Two: Working Out the Kinks

Things are moving along here at Networked Teaching & Learning as we enter our second week of existence. However, if you have been following our posts, there was an entry published today that was meant for the Tuesday link. It seems scheduling ahead requires one to pay close attention to the calendar. Plus, the Monday Message was delayed a bit due to other duties. This should get easier as we go. Bear with us.

In case you missed our first week of posts, here’s a rundown of what we wrote…

  • Tuesday Tool – Doug Caldwell provided some great ideas for getting the most out of Wordle.
  • HD Link (Wednesday) – Brooke Higgins shared the “Hump Day Link”, Thinkfinity.
  • Thursday Teaching Tip – Cara Wylie, using a narrative involving her own child’s experience at school, shared some great tips for interjecting various topics from all core subjects into our lessons.
  • Friday – Friday’s are for miscellaneous topics and Cathie Loesing shared some valuable tips for getting the most out of PowerPoint.

Be on the lookout for another online tool tomorrow and for more great tips from eMINTS and eLearning throughout the week. Also, join our eMINTS Facebook group and stay connected with the eMINTS National Center.

We Use Math in Science?

My son came home from school today and asked me if I had a ruler. He said in a very irritated tone, “We are learning metric in science which is stupid!” I asked him, “Why is that stupid?” He responded with a “like duh” look on his face, “Because it’s math, not science!” We did have a short conversation, to his dismay, about all the ways we use math in our daily lives and connected them to the different “subject” areas.

Afterwards, I began thinking about what he said. Somewhere along the way, my sixth grader has learned how to identify and categorize subjects, topics, etc. However, he has not learned to see things globally and how they interconnect. I know I’ve had these conversations before with both of my children. But, his experiences have been very “packaged” into the core subject areas of math, science, social studies, and communication arts.

My kids have both had very dedicated, knowledgeable, and conscientious teachers throughout their entire school career. Both were fortunate enough to be in an eMINTS classroom for one year. However, the majority of their education has been textbook and worksheet driven.

My challenge to all teachers this year is to keep going back to those essential questions and the five E’s from the inquiry-based lesson plan. I know it is challenging. I found it difficult to take the time to create authentic learning activities for my students while making sure I met the GLE’s and the Standards. However, the learning and improved process and social skills that authentic learning fostered made it worth my extra time and effort.

Think of ways you can intertwine concepts from all the core subjects. Here are few ideas:

  • During math lessons, infuse historical information about when those concepts were developed and how they changed cultures, economies, and life in general.
  • During social studies lessons, have students communicate in ways in which they communicated during that time period and have them reflect on how information was transferred, perceived, and sometimes lost.
  • During science lessons, allow students to explore how science shaped history. Give them an opportunity to find relationships between science and math.
  • During communication arts lessons, use forms of writing to help students connect to their world.
  • Art and music lessons can provide an opportunity for developing a deeper understanding of customs, cultures, and history.

The list is short, but hopefully it will spark some ideas on how you can create authentic experiences for your students. Maybe one day I will have a conversation with my grandchildren about learning metric in science and their response will be something like, “Why wouldn’t learn math in science? We use it all the time!”

Cara Wylie is an  area instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Thinkfinity – Funny Word, Awesome Resource

If you haven’t checked out the Thinkfinity site yet, it is a must. Great resources, ideas, and more for teachers that use technology in the classroom. When I was browsing earlier last month, I stumbled across their “Back to School” ideas and they have a section called Building a Classroom Community where they share ideas on how to build your classroom community like this poetry unit with already created teacher lesson plans. Love it when I find resources that align with the eMINTS Instructional Model so well.

Being highly resourceful teachers, if you are interested in getting Thinkfinity’s newsletter with MANY more resources than above, all you have to do is sign up. You can also subscribe to their RSS feed, become a fan on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

Originally posted on the Higgins’ Helpful Hints Blog.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can visit her site here or read her blog, Higgins’ Helpful Hints.

Reflecting with Wordle?

Do you practice what you teach?  I certainly hope so.  Here are some ways that I have used Wordle lately to assist with reflections and self-assessment.

  1. Vision Plans or Mission Statements- Do you mean what you say?
    If you are a school employee or a member of just about any organization, there is probably a series of documents that reveal the “vision” or “mission” of that group or your classroom.   Here is a way to revisit these documents to see how they compare with the reality of practice.  Paste the text or upload the documents into Wordle to find out which words are most frequently seen in the document.  Do the most common words located by Wordle really represent what the plans are for that building or classroom?  Does something need to be changed?
  2. Organization WebPages- Are you saying what you mean?
    You probably maintain some web resources that are used for communication. Perhaps it is a website, blog, wiki, or moodle.  Use Wordle to “check” to make sure that your ideas are depicted in the frequency of words that you are using. Just copy some text from your site and paste into Wordle.  Do these words represent your beliefs about education or technology? Do you believe in something that you aren’t actually communicating?
  3. Delicious Check-What kinds of resources do you value?
    Maybe you use a social bookmarking site to store and share great web finds.  I use Delicious.  During the course of a school year, I will add (on the spot) sites that peak my interest that I want to find later or share with others.  There happens to be a nice connection between Wordle and Delicious.   To make a Wordle of your social bookmarking tags, just visit Wordle Create and then enter in your Delicious username in the query box at the bottom of the page.  Are the things that you value about the web the largest words in the Wordle? Or, are you bookmarking a bunch of sites with marginal educational value?
  4. Community Check-What do your students or co-workers believe about you?
    If you want to know how others perceive you, your class, or if you want to identify recognized personality traits in a group here is the fun way to do that.  First, have each member bring open a blank Wordle text box on their computer screen.  Then have them start a sentence pattern.  (Mrs. Jones is helpful, math class is challenging, Tommy is kind, etc.)  Have each member then rotate around the room, visiting each station, and adding another sentence that follows the pattern.  (Mrs. Jones has compassion, math class makes me happy, Tommy helped me, etc.) When the rotation is complete, just press “submit” to see a Wordle generated about that person, class, or teammate.  The topic will the largest word in the visual and surrounded by the “traits”. This type of Wordle can be easily displayed on a wall, on a desk, or on a classroom webpage or class moodle.  Are the words that define you or your class how you perceive yourself? Is this what you had in mind?  Do you have traits that others depend on that you didn’t know about?

Now that I have you thinking about some reflective uses for Wordle, here are some other resources you might also enjoy:

Top 20 Ideas for Using Wordle
http://thecleversheep.blogspot.com/2008/10/top-20-uses-for-wordle.html

Guess the Wordle Activity Page
http://projectsbyjen.com/GTW/

Other Places to Make Word Clouds:
http://tagcrowd.com/
http://www.tagxedo.com/
http://www.imagechef.com/ic/word_mosaic/
http://tagul.com/
http://worditout.com/
http://wordsift.com/
http://www.tocloud.com/

Doug Caldwell, EdS, is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.