HD_Links: Blogroll

blog cartoon
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Although we don’t keep an official blogroll (Maybe we should?) here at Networked Teaching & Learning, we read a lot of blogs, mining them for resources and ideas. I try to give credit where credit is due, but sometimes useful blogs slip through the cracks. The following blogs may not always lead directly to posts here, they do offer plenty of inspiration and influence what I do on a daily basis.

Classroom Talk is a new discovery that covers similar ground to what we cover here. In other words, it covers nearly all educational topics imaginable. However, the focus is slightly different from NT&L in that it also focuses on parent resources in regards to how students learn. It’s a good read you should really check out. (H/T Laura Brashear)

Venspired was previously known as Teacher Factory but still features the same great collection of blog posts. Written by gifted teacher and sometimes NT&L contributor Krissy Venosdale, Venspired covers a wide array of topics, mostly focusing on creativity and student-centered learning. Get inspired and add Venspired to your blogroll now.

There are good things coming from over seas in educational technology. Two blogs to check our are Australia’s EdTech Toolbox and England’s EDTE.CH. EdTech Toolbox features a new online tool 2-3 times every week. That’s more than I can handle sometimes. Although EDTE.CH‘s Tom Barrett has been suspiciously absent from posting as of late, his insights, recommendations, and tips are among the best in the field. Also, this is where he keeps his “Interesting Ways” collection.

Dan Meyer is a math teacher that would have fit right in at eMINTS. His blog is dy/dan and within this blog, Dan demonstrates how creativity and putting learning first materialize in the mathematics classroom. Although he’s now working on a doctorate at Stanford, Dan is always looking for ways to make Math real and tangible for students.

Those are five blogs that provide a lot of inspiration around these parts. What blogs do you look to for inspiration and insight? How can reading blogs and participating in their conversations help us as educators?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

Tuesday’s Tool: Reel

Looking for a way to best share PowerPoint presentations, PDF’s, Word documents, or images? Try Reel, a new Web 2.0 tool that allows users to upload said files in exchange for a unique URL for the purposes of sharing. Additionally,  Reel provides ways users can receive feedback, embed these files on their own websites, and provide mobile-friendly versions of your documents.

All one has to do to get started is upload image files (jpg, png, gif) or documents (pdf, ppt, doc). Names and descriptions can be added before saving. Once saved, a unique URL is provided for sharing. Either through sharing this URL or embedding the file onto one’s own webpage, colleagues, friends, or students can provide feedback that is easily accessible for users. It’s reelly that easy.

Have you tried Reel with your students yet? What classroom applications can you see for Reel’s sharing and feedback features? How does this tools compare to other slideshow tools?

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

Monday Message: Welcome back!

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It”s great to be back after a week of family, food, and festivities, isn”t it? Well, even if you”re not quite ready, Networked Teaching & Learning is ready to give you the latest tools, resources, tips, and ideas to close out your semester. So, stay tuned for what”s to come over the next few weeks.

Don”t forget that casino online if you have something to share, submit your posts here. I”m a little behind with reader submissions. So, if you have already submitted posts and/or ideas, be patient. They will publish shortly. In the meantime, join our Facebook group, “like” the blog, and follow me on Twitter.

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

Friday 4ALL: So Crazy It Just Might Work

outside the box
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As educators, we often have to look creatively outside the classroom for new ideas and approaches. The phrase “thinking outside the box” gets tossed around, but sometimes that’s what we have to do to find something that works. One place I often look to for inspiration is the public radio program This American Life.

Last week’s episode was called “So Crazy It Might Just Work.” If you’re interested, you can listen to the episode here. As with every episode of This American Life, it’s divided into two or three acts with a prologue. In the prologue, host Ira Glass discusses with a writer about the crazy ideas great thinkers use to solve problems. Act one featured a cancer researcher who used sound waves to kill cancer cells after his old music teacher made a suggestion. Finally, the second act finds Ira interviewing a man who has a crazy idea for how to deal with a crush.

Through listening to this episode, it becomes clear that sometimes the craziest ideas are the answers to our toughest questions. A solution that seems crazy or undoable at first might be the solution that works. This can apply to our teaching quandaries as well as solutions our students try to find to problem-based learning activities or inquiry-based lessons.

The idea of crazy ideas that might work comes through most when we brainstorm. A true brainstorm accepts all possibilities without judgement. This is important as one never knows which ideas will present the most promise in solving a problem. If students are aware of this requirement, they may be more likely to stretch their thinking.

How do you encourage students to think outside the box? What place does brainstorming play in student learning? What solutions to problems have you found that seemed to be too crazy to try at first?

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

Thursday’s Tip: Scaffolding

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Most structures are built in a similar fashion. Foundations are established, frames are created, and more building material added to fill in the space where walls belong. Eventually, a finished and usable structure results. While cement hardens and nails are hammered, the structure needs scaffolding to pieces in place until they can stand on their own.

Facilitating learning often works in the same way. Students can build their knowledge with the proper scaffolding to help support their progress. The resulting knowledge is a free-standing structure that no longer needs the scaffolding. This is when students are able to act autonomously.

Below are four ways we can provide scaffolding for our students until they can use autonomous learning strategies of their own. (courtesy of Wikipedia)

  • Resources – Instead blindly sending students to the library or internet to search out resources for a project, gather and prepare resources for them to us. As far as internet resources, the best way to provide access is to set up a webpage with links. A social bookmarking tool such as Delicious or Diigo can do this efficiently.
  • A Compelling Task – A compelling task is one that is authentic, real world, and speaks to a student’s interests and experiences. A well-designed task can help a student connect content with their “real” lives. So, when we later ask them to apply what they have learned in school to real world situations, they can do this. Simulation, problem-based, and inquiry-based lessons can do this better than the traditional lecture or drill-and-skill activities.
  • Templates and Guides – Any form or graphic aid that helps students organize their thoughts is a form of scaffolding. Templates leave the content out for students to fill in while benefitting from a teacher’s organizational skills. The same can be said for graphic organizers. However, graphic organizers present information in a visual manner that make it easier for some students to grasp.
  • Guidance and Development of Cognitive and Social Skills – Just like we have to teach students to read and count, it’s important for us to teach them how to think and act. Thinking and acting appropriately in school doesn’t just happen because we tell students what to do. Teaching and facilitating learning has to take place. Modeling and guiding thought process help students meet your expectations. Then, there need to be opportunities to practice what they see or do with your guidance.

All good learning requires some scaffolding. Some students need more than others, but that’s a reality with which we have to contend. Even with our most capable students, scaffolding can help them be successful.

How do you provide the structure necessary for your students to be successful learners? What are some ways in which you have helped students organize their thinking? What are some other ways we provide scaffolding for student learning?

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

A Quick Note on PIPA

I wanted to take a moment to tell you about some important legislation that could affect the way we use the internet and online tools with our students for the foreseeable future. The Protect IP Act is a bill meant “to prevent online threats to economic creativity and theft of intellectual property, and for other purposes.”

That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Well, then you should check out the video below and this infographic before you make up your mind.

Basically, in an effort to stop piracy, S.968 – PROTECT IP Act of 2011 creates a situation where user sharing sites could be in great jeopardy. In other words, all those great free sites that allow students collaboration and social networking could be outlawed. If the bill passes, we could potentially have to say goodbye to Google, YouTube, Facebook, and any number of user-generated sites that private entities deem as infringing on their intellectual property without having to go to court.

Some censorship is good and even necessary, but this bill threatens the many freedoms we enjoy today on the ‘net. Don’t take my word for it, read up on this issue and contact your representative today.

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

HD_Links: Thanksgiving Resources

Yesterday, we shared some Thanksgiving tools. Today, we have a list of some useful resources for teaching Thanksgiving this year.

Before I list some of the best resources, I’ll tell you where I gathered most of my links. eThemes has a long list of resources as well as links to related topics. The other place I find a ton of resources is Larry Lerlazzo’s Website of the Day… and his list of best Thanksgiving resources. Here are a few I picked:

What resources have you leaned on when teaching Thanksgiving? How do you recognize Thanksgiving in your classroom?

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

Tuesday’s Tool: Three Tools for Teaching Thanksgiving

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There are loads of Thanksgiving resources out there, but most of them promote a more passive or sedentary type of research activity. So, for this week’s online tools post, we’re sharing three great tools for teaching Thanksgiving. Expect a list of resources tomorrow.

Scholastic’s The First Thanksgiving is a virtual field trip of the Plimoth Plantation. Included are videos and interactive features on the voyage, life in Plimoth, and the first feast of Thanksgiving. There are also teacher resources and an option to receive historical letters from Pilgrim and Wampanoag children by email.

The History Channel has a collection of 15 Thanksgiving videos and a photo gallery for your visual learners. The videos cover topics ranging from the many Thanksgiving traditions we enjoy today to some detailed features on the historical events surrounding the first Thanksgiving.

Finally, one of my favorite tools from my days in the classroom is this simulation from the Plimoth Plantation and the Smithsonian. Investigating the First Thanksgiving: You Are the Historian is an interactive activity where students play detectives trying to determine what really happened at the first Thanksgiving. Different perspectives are considered and primary resources are studies for an engaging and thoughtful lesson.

What online tools have you found helpful in teaching Thanksgiving? How do you insure that varying perspectives are covered while you still maintain the spirit of the traditional American holiday? Where does Thanksgiving fit into learning standards?

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

Monday Message: November 14, 2011

Here are a few announcements for mid-November…

Announcing Digital Learning Day – February 1, 2012: The Alliance for Excellent Education invites you – teachers, students, parents, principals, district administrators, as well as state and national education leaders – to engage in Digital Learning Day, a year-long campaign to celebrate bold, creative innovative teachers in classrooms across this nation. Digital Learning Day will challenge education professionals and policymakers at all levels to start a conversation, make a proclamation, improve a lesson, or create a plan. To help you participate in the campaign, the Alliance for Excellent Education will create and share ideas, tools and templates – including digital learning project ideas tailored for various grades and academic subjects. The first step is easy!

Learn more about the Digital Learning Day at: http://www.digitallearningday.org/ Sign up to participate at: http://www.digitallearningday.org/sign-up/ and learn more about the events leading up to and following the Digital Learning Day. Watch the introductory video on the Digital Learning Day website. You may see some familiar faces. The eMINTS National Center is proud to participate as a partner for the event and to share some of the photos that are being used to promote the event.

Help SuccessLink reward Missouri teachers for submitting exemplar unit plans:  SuccessLink, a professional development and lesson database in Missouri, has launched a campaign to win votes for $50K Pepsi Refresh Project Grant to reward teachers for submitting exemplar unit plans to the SuccessLink lesson plan database. You can vote once each day for our project.

To vote visit http://www.refresheverything.com/search/?q=SuccessLink or  Text* 109715 to Pepsi (73774) to vote from your mobile. (Note that standard text messaging rates apply.) To learn more about SuccessLink resources see: http://www.successlink.org/