Friday 4ALL: Speaking with Conviction

This has been making the rounds, but it”s worth posting here. Poet Taylor Mali”s “Totally like whatever you know?” has been animated by Ronnie Bruce, a film student. The resulting video has been a hit throughout social media outlets over the last week .

What follows is Mali”s lament over language that speaks with little to no authority through the use of discourse particles such as “y”know”, “whatever”, and “like.” Watch casino pa natet and listen…

Like, that was so powerful…just kidding.

Mali”s poem (brought to life through Bruce”s animation) declares the importance of speaking with authority and power. This is an important lesson for young writers and speakers to learn. A thesis or declaration in a speech is so much more meaningful without the discourse particles.

How might you use this video with your students? How might you students create a product with the same impactful imagery of our words driving the point home? What message do you take away from Mali”s poem?

Zac Early is like an instructional specialist or whatever with the eMINTS National Center, y”know?

Thursday’s Tip: Create Norms with Your Students

On quarter of the eMINTS instructional model is dedicated to building classroom community. One way in which we do that at the very beginning of our training sessions is to allow our participants to set our community norms. The expectation is that these participants will turn around and do the same with their own classrooms. Create community or group norms is a way in insure that students feel some ownership in how their classroom operates.

I recently stumbled upon a blog post by Krissy Venosdale, an eMINTS teacher from Hillsboro R-3 (MO), who follows and believes in this approach. She moved from setting her own list of rules as a beginning teacher to letting the students help her make the rules. Eventually, with the help of her eMINTS training, she made the shift to norms and created the eye-catching and inspirational poster you see below.

In Our Classroom

The biggest difference between rules and norms is how they inform our behavior. Rules tell us what not to do and is why they normally come from a place of authority. Norms tell what to do and are agreed upon by a community. The focus moves from restrictions to possibilities and from teacher-centered to student-centered.

There are many ways to create your classroom norms, but I have a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Ask students: What kinds of behaviors will help us make our classroom an efficient learning environment?
  2. Have students brainstorm a list of possible norms.
  3. Together, you and your students can look for commonalities in pairing the list down to something more manageable, like six or fewer norms.
  4. I like to provide one norm that is important to me as a way to demonstrate my expectations for norms.
  5. Norms should be written as things people do in order to be successful, not the things they won’t do.

Take a moment and think about how instituting norms in your classroom can have a positive impact on your learning environment.

What are some ways in which you have utilized norms in your classroom? When are rules more appropriate than norms? How have you come up with norms with your students?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. His favorite norm for his teachers is for them to “be present.”

HD_Links: Understanding the Debt Crisis

Call them,stop the Debt Ceiling Sellout,tell them anyone who votes for this is finished

The hot-button topic right now has to be the ever-approaching debt ceiling and Washington’s debate over how to handle that debt. Without getting political, this is an extremely serious issue. Even if it is resolved by the time schools open and classes begin, it provides an interesting opportunity to take a deeper look at how our federal government operates and its relation to the economy.

Here are some helpful links in understanding the issue…

  • Taxes and government spending are huge elements in this debate. A place where we can obtain some idea of where our taxes go is the online tool Where Do My Tax Dollars Go? Simply plug in a yearly salary and filing status. The tool will give you a summary of the taxes you’ll pay and the breakdown of where that money will go. This practice puts the role of taxes and governmental spending in an individualized context.

  • One of the issues our nation is facing in this recession is the growing disparity of the haves and have-nots. Good has published another great infographic that details that disparity. See how factors like race and education play into our opportunities which have long-term effects on our economy.

  • Speaking of opportunity in this shaky economy, NPR has an interesting story on the cost of dropout rates. This demonstrates directly how the choices our students make affect the economy. It also puts governmental fiscal concerns in a context to which students can relate.
  • What does the US’s debt look like? There is a fantastic illustration of the enormity of our debt as pointed out by Information Aesthetics. In the linked post, gives a great rundown of various image and video representations of the growing debt. The links will either amaze you or depress you, but they are super useful for those visual learners trying to understand the enormity of our debt.

What resources have you turned to in trying to understand the debt ceiling crisis? In what ways would you use these resources when teaching your students about government and economics?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Tuesday’s Tool: Google+

Google is the latest to throw their hat in the social media ring with Google+, a site that achieved 2o million users in just 24 days. That’s a mere 1,128 fewer days than Facebook. Of course, Google+ has many classroom applications either ready to use or soon to be available.

The video below sort of explains why this new tool is so important.

The EdTech blogosphere is all abuzz over Google+. Of course, Larry Ferlazzo already has a working list of Google+ resources you can access. Some are looking toward what Google+ can teach us about education reform. However, there are still many concerns over potential privacy disasters to be aware of when dealing with a social media tool. That said, there are still a large number of educators taking advantage of this new and exciting tool.

What do you think of Google+? Are you using it yet? Do you see possible classroom applications that you haven’t seen with other social media tools?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center as well as an early adopter of Google+.

Monday Message: How Green Is Your Internet

For this week’s Monday Message, I thought I’d try something different and share a video to make you think. Consider that we are experiencing a record-setting heatwave this summer, testing the capacity of our energy system. Then consider the time we spend online and what that means to the environment. The following video puts that usage in perspective…

How does this video make you reconsider your internet use? What can we all do to reduce our carbon footprint while staying connected online? How will you address this issue in the coming school year?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center and is reconsidering the time he wastes online.

Friday 4ALL: The Changing Face of Books & Reading

I have a family member, that will remain nameless, who can”t even fathom reading anything other than a REAL book. She doesn”t understand why anyone would want to have a Kindle, Nook, iPad, or any eReader for that matter. Reading to her isn”t just about words, its about words on a piece of paper held in her hands. It”s about feeling the texture of the paper, smelling the pages as she turn each one of them, sinking into a chair and losing herself in the story, and it”s about passing on that love to others (as she did with me). She is shocked, and a little annoyed, that I might “let” her Grandson read a book on our iPad.  She asked me how he will learn to love a book if he can”t hold it in his hands and turn the pages back and forth.

Needless to say, I wasn”t surprised when I got a frantic text from her the other day letting me know that Borders, the second largest book store to Barnes & Noble, is closing their doors for good. It made me think of You”ve Got Mail, the movie with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, where the big book store puts the Mom & Pop store out of business. But I wonder….is this such a bad thing??? Are ereaders going to be the end of the world…Judgement Day, Armageddon, 2012, The Apocalypse?

Now I realize, all book stores are not closing, just like not all magazines casino online or newspapers have shut down, but there is something in the air….a shift….a transfer of practice…a growing change in reading habits. A study that was done in September of 2010 found that only about 8% of Americans read on ereaders. But of that 1-in-10, 21% say that they now read more than they did before.

What this means to me is that a small portion of readers have changed reading habits and maybe it means that those that once didn”t read have now found a new way of reading that works for them. I don”t really care either way. What I care about is that people are reading. Whether they grab a book or their iPad, they have found the love of reading and that is what we, as teachers, try to instill in kids.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, realized that readers want more and that the use of interactive environments and social networking is very popular. In June, Rowling announced a new online environment where the stories and characters of Hogwarts will continue to develop in the years ahead. Readers around the world were so excited that her announcement video has over 1.6 million views on YouTube. Learn more about Pottermore, and possibly even be a beta tester for the site, by visiting the website July 31st. Maybe this is an example of another way to hook reluctant readers and encourage kids (and adults) to read.

I believe that reading is: fundamental, power, fun, important, essential, etc. Whether you choose to read a book or an ebook it”s really win/win. So what might this change in practice mean for schools, teachers, students, testing, bookbags, trees, etc?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

lib-girl (Photographer). (2011). Diving into Digital Books 5. [Web]. Retrieved from

Thursday’s Tip: Evernote

In an era of more paper, it’s easy for important notes and records to get lost in the shuffle. Evernote makes it possible to say goodbye to all that paper. Keep notes, resources, and other documents in one, easy to access place with this fantastic Web 2.0 tool.

There is a website, desktop version, as well as an app for handheld devices that can make files on Evernote available anywhere. Information gathered in one place can be easily accessed and revised in another. Backups are easily created so that nothing is lost. Collect data on your phone to work on your desktop at home and finish back at school the next day. The multiple access points make Evernote invaluable to the teacher on the move.

What kind of information could one keep on Evernote? Documents, photos, websites, and, of course, notes can all be kept neatly and organized. Keep business cards from parents, vendors, or administrators. Take notes on a student’s progress and pictures of her work. Write lesson plans with attachments to resources at home and finish them at school. The question should be: What information can’t one keep on Evernote?

As with most Web 2.0 tools, Evernote is free. Access the website from any computer and store your information there. You can also download the desktop version that will sync with your web account. If you have a smart phone or other online handheld device, download the app and take Evernote everywhere.

In what ways have you used Evernote in the classroom? Are there uses for it you can see that are not mentioned here?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center and he plans to use Evernote this school year in order to keep track of his classroom visits and training sessions.

HD_Links: Graphic Novels or Comic Books – Whatever you call them they are WRITING!

Saturday morning cartoons on TV, the newest X-Men comic book, or even the Sunday morning comics in the newspaper can captivate kids and adults alike?  Allowing students to create authentic products like these may engage some more than simply asking them to write a story.

These tools focus on writing and illustrating comics/cartoons. These resources allow students to create their own comic strips or custom animations to be integrated into writing projects across the curriculum.

What kinds of projects using these tools might engage your students?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

Tuesday’s Tool: Create Video Snippets with Tube Chop

Have you ever wanted to show a small portion of a video from YouTube during a lesson or presentation?

What I usually did was create a link to the full video and then during the lesson/presentation I would drag the play-head to the exact time I wanted to start playing. I usually ended up waiting forever for the video to load, taking up tons of time that I didn’t have, and it never seemed to work out as I had planned.

Now TubeChop makes this task simple.

1. Before your lesson or presentation copy the YouTube video URL and then go to TubeChop.
2. Insert the URL in the text field at the top of the page and click search.

3. Once you can view the video use the beginning and ending play heads below the video.

4. Then click the Chop It button and presto – you have your “chopped video” clip, an embedding code, a direct link, and more.

Hopefully this easy to use tool will help you to have more effective and efficient lessons and presentations.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.