Weekly Update

Archived Webinar – Flipped Classroom: Several list members have asked if there is a recording of the webinar from NROC (National Repository of Online Courses) about how to “flip” the classroom using digital media content. eMINTS staff member, Cathie Loesing, was featured on a panel as part of the webinar. The recording link has just been posted at: http://www.nrocnetwork.org/flipping-classroom-digital-media-content – scroll down to Webinar URL.

New eThemes for the week of January 30, 2012

Animals: Saint Bernards<http://ethemes.missouri.edu/themes/626>

These sites are about Saint Bernards, a large breed of working dogs. Find out how much they eat, how much they weigh, and if they make good household pets. Learn more about the history of these dogs, including their role as rescue dogs in the Swiss Alps. There are photographs, illustrations, and a video.

Animals: Utah Amphibians and Reptiles<http://ethemes.missouri.edu/themes/661>

These sites are about the amphibians and reptiles that live in Utah. Also learn about the similarities and differences between amphibians and reptiles. There are links to eThemes Resources on vertebrates and invertebrates and gila monsters.

Math: Problems of the Week<http://ethemes.missouri.edu/themes/1985>

These sites feature math problems of the week for middle and high school students. Includes a link to eThemes Resource: Math: Word Problems.

Missouri: Symbols<http://ethemes.missouri.edu/themes/1984>

These site are about the symbols of the state of Missouri. Find out information and interactive, games, videos and printables for the many Missouri state symbols. Links to eThemes Resources: Missouri: Facts, Missouri: Native Trees,and Missouri: State Flag.


These sites are about paper. Learn about the history of paper, paper making processes, facts and statistics about paper, and its impacts on environments and the economy. Includes a video, quizzes, games, hands-on activities and experiments. There are also links to eThemes Resources on recycling and trees.

Southern Belle<http://ethemes.missouri.edu/themes/863>

These sites focus on the lives of Southern Belle before and during the Civil War. There are memoirs reflecting the lives and perspectives of women of a plantation society before and after the Civil War as well as biographies of well-known Southern Belles. Find out roles that they were expected from the society. Includes an eThemes Resources on Civil War: Women.

Technology: SMART Response System (Senteo)<http://ethemes.missouri.edu/themes/862>

These sites provide ideas for SMART Response classroom usage as well as technical resources. Learn how to set up the system and how to create an assessment for use with the SMART Response System. Includes tutorials, question sets, and question templates. There are also links to eThemes Resources on Teaching Tips: SMART Board Resources and Math: Smart Board Activities.

World War II: Tuskegee Airmen<http://ethemes.missouri.edu/themes/701>

These sites about the Tuskegee Airmen. Learn about the service of the Tuskegee Airmen, African American pilots, during World War II. There is information on the history, training program, combats, and a list of graduates from the institute. Includes primary documents, photos, and classroom activities. There are also links to eThemes Resources on World War II for Upper Grades and Military Aircraft.

Writing: Realistic Fiction<http://ethemes.missouri.edu/themes/702>

Learn about realistic fiction, a genre of writing that has situations that could occur in real life. These sites include lists of books that fit into this category and a list of realistic fiction authors. There are also writing prompts to help students write their own realistic fiction stories. Includes links to eThemes Resources on various realistic fiction books.

4ALL: Taking Lessons to Task

Student project
Click for source.

When planning a unit or lesson, maybe the most important decision we make is writing the task. Sure standards and learning outcomes must be met, but a well-conceived task is how students will achieve academic goals. Additionally, a task that is meaningful and interesting is what motivates students to do their best work.

Tasks should be authentic. Students want to learn, but they also want to learn skills and content that have real-world applications. We are long past the days of learning just for the sake of learning. A motivating factor for students is the authenticity of the task. A tasks “realness” encourages students to attend to the content even more than abstract exercises. Particularly in web-based learning activities, such as WebQuests, authenticity can be crucial to motivating students. Not only can an authentic task motivate students to learn, it also helps in showing them the relevance of academic work.

Creativity is another aspect of effective tasks. When we talk about creativity, we are not only talking about the aesthetics of a project or display. No, what we are talking about is the kind of creativity in the form of innovation. When students are given tasks that require them to creatively solve a problem or devise new meanings of their worlds, they are both motivated and highly engaged with the content. Creativity has a place in education despite traditional education’s tendency to squelch innovation among students.

So, where do we find tasks that are authentic and promote creativity? Well, there are actually several approaches that fit this bill.

Problem-based learning (PBL) is an approach that requires students to creatively solve real-world problems. Students might be charged with solving a pollution issue in their community’s streams or in designing a new library that fills a school’s needs. These tasks require collaboration, communication, computation, analysis, and an understanding of their world in order to come up with solutions that may work.

Inquiry is another pedagogical approach that requires authenticity and some creativity. Inquiry-based lessons allow the students’ questions about natural phenomena that lead to further investigations.  Students experiencing inquiry develop experimental and analytic skills while conducting investigations. Inquiries can begin with topics such as the current socio-economic environment in the US or around the world, the power of lessons to be learned from well-crafted literature, or the best computations in figuring out mapping the quickest route to the top of Mt. Everest.

A third tool that features authentic tasks that encourage creativity is the aforementioned WebQuest. The WebQuest prominently features a task as its core element. This is how all WebQuests are judged. In fact, Bernie Dodge’s “Taskonomy” lays out the various kinds of tasks that elicit the best results from a WebQuest. In short, a good WebQuest task pushes students to dig into content beyond rote comprehension in collaboratively creating something that demonstrates a deep understanding of the topic. For the best list of high-quality WebQuests, visit Quest Garden.

If you are looking for standards to justify authenticity and creativity in your task, there are plenty of standards and learning models that support these approaches. Look no further than ISTE’s standards for student learning. Also, if one were to look at a DOK chart, the kinds of tasks littered in levels three and four can easily be correlated with real-world and creative tasks. If your school subscribes to Bloom’s (revised) taxonomy, you’ll find that creativity is at the top and the real-world skills of evaluating, analyzing, and applying are just below.

What other ideas should we keep in-mind when designing student tasks? Which is more difficult to plan in a task: authenticity or creativity? What is the most challenging part of facilitating learning through authentic and creative tasks?

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

Online Tool: Nota

We are always looking for new online tools that allow students to collaborate and share information. The tool Nota is one such tool with these capabilities and so much more. Check out the Nota notebook below that I created in order to help introduce this exiting and new collaborative tool.

As you can see, Nota allows users to create an interactive poster or graphic that can be embedded on almost any site or social networking tool. One can also follow a direct link and access a notebook the old-fashioned way. Some basic drawing and composition tools provide the ability to create an informative and visually-appealing infographic. Users can also insert media from a number of sources such as YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, and even one’s own hard drive.

What sets Nota apart from some other display/presentation tools is its interactivity. Users can allow their audience to add comments that work like post-it notes. Nota has video conferencing capabilities that are rare for such a tool. An access counter will tell the notebook’s owner how many views a notebook has attained. There’s even a message board users can insert into a notebook. Finally, a feature I discovered by accident while preparing this post, Nota updates in real time. So, if you embed a blank Nota on a website or blog, as you add features, the embedded version updates simultaneously.

To get started, register for an account with Nota and set up your first notebook. Add pages that visitors can access for further information. If needed, you can hide a page or limit commenting. In order to share your notebook, use social media to take your notebook’s message further.

How have you used Nota with your students? What possibilities could you see for teaching and learning with Nota’s tools? What ideas do you have for managing a Nota notebook with students?

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

Weekly Update 1/23/12

Announcements for the week of January 23, 2012:

University of Missouri-Columbia Launches Virtual School: The MU College of Education is launching a virtual school called Mizzou K-12 Online. The program will provide semester-based facilitated courses for students in grades K -12. The first two pilot courses – high school level American Government and Healthy Living – are open for enrollment. Courses are $300 per student per course and include all instruction and materials. Both courses are slated to begin the week of January 30 and conclude May 25. For more information see the College of Education website at: http://education.missouri.edu/ – the announcement is just above the EdLife icon on the right-hand side of the page. Both courses were developed using Missouri course-level expectations but are open to enrollment for students from any location.

Alliance for Excellent Education Digital Learning Day: There is still time to register for and participate in the first-ever Digital Learning Day on Wednesday, February 1, 2012. Visit http://www.digitallearningday.org/sign-up to stay connected, get updates, and receive exclusive information on what you can do to support this effort by taking less than five minutes to sign up and join the wave of innovation and momentum that is building for this groundbreaking event.

This national awareness campaign is designed to celebrate innovative teachers and highlight instructional practices that strengthen and personalize learning for all students. The Digital Learning Day campaign explores how digital learning can provide teachers and students with the opportunities they deserve in an effort to build or become part of a workforce that is ready to succeed in college, a career, and life. One of the newest toolkits provided by the Alliance is for after-school and community-based programs. Check it out at: http://www.digitallearningday.org/toolkits/beyond_the_classroom

New and Updated eThemes:

To view a list of the most recent new and updated eThemes, see: http://ethemes.missouri.edu/new_themes?locale=en

eMINTS Pre-Conference Announcement

These 3-hour hands-on workshops are offered from 1:00 – 4:00 on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 to kick off this year’s eMINTS National Center Conference.

Wock Your Webpage with Weebly – Learn how to transform your online classroom webpage with Weebly – and you can link to the world!

Applying Research-based Strategies Using SMART Products – Participants will gain a deeper understanding of how to connect the Nine Instructional Strategies to your SMART Notebook lessons to improve student achievement.

Digital Journey to Authentic Learning – Participants will learn how to blend creativity into student-centered activities and how to use Share software to create and publish in the 21st Century classroom.

Unlocking the Potential of Google Apps – Participants will experience the benefits of using Google Apps within their buildings, grade level teams and even with students.

Using Open Source Content in the Blended Classroom – explore technical tools that are freely accessible online for public use and how these tools can economically extend your classrooms into the 21st century- expanding the learning experience and opportunities for all.

Visit http://www.emints.org/conference-2012/conference-schedule/ for more information on these workshops, keynotes, and all of the breakout sessions offered at our annual eMINTS National Center Conference. Hurry! Registration closes on February 3, 2012.

We hope to see you there!

Cara Wylie

eMINTS National Center Conference Coordinator

Friday 4ALL: Understanding SOPA

Even XKCD got in on the act. - Click for source.

You may have heard the news or noticed that many of your favorite websites this week blacked out their content in protest of the legislation known as SOPA and PIPA. These laws seek to protect copyright holders by censoring sites that share their copyrighted media. There are varying opinions on the issue, but, for the most part, internet companies and their users are against these bills.

Columbia, Missouri native and social media expert Clay Shirky lays out the legislation and why it’s bad.

[ted id=1329 lang=en]

For further insight into SOPA and PIPA, follow the links below as well as the video we posted on PIPA a while back here.

While protecting copyrighted material from pirating is an important issue, we must consider how this legislation as well as the media industry’s inevitable next attempt at clamping down on media sharing will affect how we use the internet in schools. Consider all the sites that depend on user-generated content such as Google, YouTube, Facebook, and countless others. Then consider how we use these same sites in our schools. The value sites that enable sharing – copyrighted or otherwise – bring to the 21st century learner’s education is invaluable.

This isn’t really a political argument as most of the bills’ original backers are now backing out of their support. However, it is important for us to stay aware and be prepared for the next round of legislation proposing to do the same things SOPA and PIPA intended to accomplish.

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

Thursday’s Tip: Open Source Software

Some people love their open source software. - Click for source.

One of the major problems with equipping schools with new technology is the cost of constantly updating and replacing software. Not only is software expensive, but the licenses for an entire school building or district really add to the overall cost. This obstacle means that schools will be stuck with outdated tools or, even worse, go without.

This is where open source software can save schools an incredible amount of money and resources. Open source software is software developers have created that are free to use and distribute. They share the coding for the software so that users may create their own applications and fixes for bugs that may arise. The process for improving and updating open source applications has improved so much that it’s become as efficient as those of for-profit software. The other great thing is that using the software is free. Most developers just ask for donations and/or participation in their edit and revision process.

Here’s a list of some popular open source applications ready for download today:

These are just a few of the more popular open source programs out there. There is plenty more open source software out there. Lists of open-source software can be found at Damicon, Wikipedia, and Ubuntu.

All of this software is free to download and distribute. Expensive updates and licensing are no longer necessary. Plus, many of these applications work well with existing for-profit software already present on most computers.

Which open source applications do you use on a regular basis? Which software do you wish had an open source equivalent? How might the use of open source allow more accessibility for our students?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center. He would also like for you to be aware that he publishes this blog using WordPress and facilitates his training sessions using MOODLE, both open source applications.

HD_Links: Teaching Digital Citizenship

Click for source.

Year 1 eMINTS teachers are getting their student laptops up and running this month and thinking about how they can incorporate these new tools into their classroom lessons and activities. One topic some of the teachers I work with are interested in teaching their students is that of being responsible users of technology and becoming a part of digital communities. Here are a few online resources that may help in teaching those digital citizenship skills.

eThemes has a few themes that may help teach this topic including Teaching Tips: Digital Citizenship, Cyberbullying, Ethics for Students. Check the eThemes A-Z listing or search to find more.

Cybersmartcurriculum.org offers teacher K-12 lesson plans to help teach about the topics of Digital Society, Digital Rights and Responsibilities, Digital Safety and Security, Digital Etiquette, Digital Laws and Ethics, and Lifelong Learning. Lessons are identified by the grade level appropriate for each activity, whether they can be done without a computer or if they may include a web 2.0 tool, and if they require an Internet connection.

BrainPop has a whole group of videos (with additional activities and even quizzes) to help teach students about Digital Citizenship including Copyright, Plagiarism, Online Sources, Digital Etiquette, and many more.

Or check out this Digital Citizen Resources LiveBinder created by computer teacher and blogger, Vicky Sedgwick. The LiveBinder includes TONS of links and resources for teachers, parents, and students interested in learning more about digital citizenship.

What might be some of your favorite resources for teaching digital citizenship?

Brooke Higgins is an on again, off again blogger and instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read this and more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

Tuesday’s Tool: Royalty Free Media Collections

LuMaxArt FS Collection Orange0174
Click for source.

When assigning multimedia projects for students, it is often hard to locate royalty-free media among collections of copyrighted material. Thankfully, others have discovered this problem as well and have developed tools for discovering media that are safe and legal for students to use in their multimedia projects.

Here are a few of those tools:

What tools do you use to find royalty-free media? Why is it important that we use or encourage students to use royalty-free media?

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

Monday’s Message (on a Tuesday): Martin Luther King & eMINTS Conference

We trust that you had a restful and reflective Martin Luther King Day. Since it was a holiday, there was no post yesterday, but today you will get two posts! For those looking for Martin Luther King materials, check out roughly 200,000 of Dr. King’s writings at the King Center website and archive.

For those searching out information on the annual eMINTS Conference, you’ve come to the right place. Below is a message from the conference committee:


The eMINTS National Center Conference registration is still open! Come and hear our outstanding keynote speakers! Dr. Todd Whitaker will share “What Great Teachers Do Differently.” Dr. Bernie Dodge will show us “The Power of Student-Made Questions.” Check out all exciting breakout sessions offered this year! http://www.emints.org/conference-2012/conference-schedule/

Hurry! Sessions are filling fast. February 3, 2012 is the deadline for all conference registrations. For complete conference information, visit http://www.emints.org/conference-2012/conference-schedule/.

For questions or registration assistance, please contact the eMINTS National Center office at  register@emints.org or (573) 884-7202.

We look forward to seeing you there!

The eMINTS Conference Committee