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Thursday #eC12 – Design Patterns 2.0

Bernie Dodge’s eMINTS Conference breakout session, Design Patterns 2.0, focused around one of the most challenging parts of writing a WebQuest…. developing a task that engages students while pushing them to think at higher levels and then do something with the content they learn is tough. Bernie’s Design Patterns have long been a resource used in the eMINTS professional development sessions to support teachers as they write their first WebQuest. Design Patterns 2.0 is Dodge’s latest attempt to support teachers in the challenge of coming up with a good starting point to create original, quality WebQuests.

When beginning planning a WebQuest, Dodge suggests “starting at the end and looking at the kids”. Asking… What will they be doing for a living 15 years from now? What will they be doing for recreation? What issues will they be faces with? Dodge shared that “the success of people today and 15 years from now is when people have actually practiced and become good at…designing, deciding, analyzing, creating, predicting.” These are the excellent places for teachers to begin their WebQuest planning because “success is not about the nouns…success is about the verbs”.

So what’s new with Design Patterns 2.0? It’s now an interactive (click-able) matrix where a user chooses an anchor (person, place, thing, problem, activity) and a verb (deciding, designing, creating, analyzing, predicting). At the intersection point are questions that guide a user to help develop their WebQuest’s task and “create a lesson that engages higher-level thinking.”

A couple of tips shared at the session…for a beginner, pick one verb and anchor and do it well – for more experienced WebQuest creators build in more than one intersection point and design a more complex WebQuest.

You can see the Google presentation Bernie created to overview his ideas at He hopes to turn it into a web app in the near future.

What’s your best tip for teachers creating their first or fiftieth WebQuest?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center and presenter at the eMINTS Conference 2012.

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.

Thursday’s Tip: Structure Is Still Important

Ecuadoran Students
Click for source. - Public Domain
New teaching methods and progressive pedagogy is constantly being promoted to teachers. eMINTS is no different in that we encourage cooperative learning, community building, and inquiry. Teachers who have grown up in “traditional” school settings and continue to teach that way are often wary of such new approaches when they feel comfortable with traditional teacher and content-centered methods of instruction.

The biggest concern is that these new and different ways of teaching are free of structure. Noisy classrooms of students working groups suggest chaos. Cooperative learning makes it hard to insure that each student is being held accountable. Community-building activities are seen as “warm fuzzies” that just take up time that could be otherwise dedicated toward teaching content.

However, I would argue that – like traditional methodology – there is structure. For example, cooperative learning only works if there is a specific structure to insure that it works. Take the very popular Jigsaw structure. In this approach, students are divided into home groups with a common task. Then, the groups are divided into expert groups where each member will be responsible for learning a portion of the content to teach or about which to inform his home group. With this very structured cooperative learning strategy, students are accountable for doing their part. There simply is no room for chaos.

None of the approaches I’ve mentioned work without structure. The thing to remember is that the structure is different from traditional teaching practices, not absent. To try cooperative learning or inquiry does not mean that we should simply set our students loose with groups of other students and hope for the best. Progressive instructional techniques still require a certain amount of structure that should be learned and applied.

What are some lessons you have learned about the structures of non-traditional teaching methods? What are some ways in which non-traditional teaching strategies have improved learning in your classroom? What was the ah-ha moment that caused you to break from a traditional instructional approach?

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

Joplin Tornado

Our city needs your prayers.   on TwitpicThis is from our executive director, Monica Beglau:

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the teachers and families devastated by the tornado in the Joplin, MO area yesterday. All eMINTS staff and their families that live in the area are safe. The Joplin district eMINTS specialists are also safe. We know there were many schools damaged by the storm and are hoping that they can be repaired or rebuilt soon.


Here are sites assisting in recovery:

4ALL: Shared Experiences

While scrolling through my Google Reader, I stopped at a post in my subscription to WordPress’s Freshly Pressed feature. “So I was on a plane to Florida…” was the one that caught my eye. Blogger and Twitter enthusiast Stefanie Gordon tells her story of Tweeting a picture of the Space Shuttle Endeavor breaking through the clouds as seen from her seat aboard a flight on Delta Airlines.

Gordon goes on to tell her story of how this image made her an instant sensation. The picture and her name spread throughout the internet and all over mass media outlets. One Tweet provided her fifteen minutes of fame.

While the effect her picture going viral had on Gordon’s life is significant, what is even more interesting is the fact that her little share allowed the world to experience what only she and any other passengers on her flight could have experienced. This is the real power of social media and why wouldn’t we want our students to have access to these experiences?

Twitter especially is adept at sharing experiences. Instantly, from wherever, Twitter users can share perspective, images, even video of their experiences. While many of these experiences can be somewhat mundane, a few are as amazing and worthy our time, much like Gordon’s picture of the Space Shuttle.

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

What happened?

It’s been a busy and hectic past couple of weeks, but we’re still here. Look for things to resume as normal next week. Until then, check out the message from eMINTS Director Monica Beglau in regards to the tragedy in Japan:

With the world’s attention focused on the natural disasters occurring in Japan, many teachers may want to take this opportunity to work with their students on disaster planning and to develop a deeper understanding of changes to the earth’s surface that may result in catastrophes for human beings. The natural disasters in Japan also highlight how man-made structures such as nuclear energy plants can be affected and create additional hazards. eMINTS has developed a unit/lesson plan and provided many resources for teachers to use in working with these topics in the classroom. While the grade level listed for the unit/lesson plan is “Grade 4,” the concepts are also important in middle and high school. Creative teachers will be able to adapt the unit/lesson plan by increasing the difficulty of the task and having older students work with students from other grade levels where possible to develop school-wide plans. See for more information.

Special thanks to the Safe America Foundation for the use of their materials in the unit/lesson plan. The Safe America Foundation is dedicated to improving the safety of Americans by making them aware of threats, encouraging them to prepare and through the distribution of safety products. A 501.c.3 nonprofit organization chartered in 1994, Safe America works in partnership with corporate, governmental, public and private sector organizations and other nonprofits to develop programs targeting emerging safety issues or to bring new insight or new technologies to persistent threats – at home, work or play. Learn more at:

Additional Information: Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas and Illinois districts may also wish to participate in the multi-state earthquake preparedness drill on April 28th. For more information on the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut see:

Missouri-specific information is available from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education at:

Tuesday’s Tool: eThemes

eThemes is a collaboration of the eMINTS National Center and the University of Missouri which provides teachers with a “source for content-rich, kid-safe online resources that will help enhance […] teaching and save […] time.”

Some new eThemes are listed below, courtesy of weekly eThemes updates:

Author Study: Rick Riordan
These sites are about the author Rick Riordan and “The Percy Jackson” series. The “39 Clues” series and “The Kane Chronicles” series are also presented. Includes games, author interviews, and interactive maps with numerous links to search.

Chemistry: Chemical Reactions
These sites demonstrate the different types of chemical reactions. Students can see videos of more dangerous or complex reactions, and laboratory experiments are included. Also included are eThemes resources on Chemical Equations and Oxidation-Reduction Reactions.

Here are some old favorites that were recently updated eThemes:

Animals: Vertebrates and Invertebrates
These sites explain how vertebrates and invertebrates are classified in the animal kingdom. There is information about the five groups of vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) and the seven phylum of invertebrates (sponges, coelenterates, echinoderms, worms, mollusks, and arthropods). Includes games that have students guess a type of animal based upon clues about its characteristics. For more information about specific animal species, browse our alphabetical listing of eThemes animal topics.

Author Study: Jan Brett
Find out about children’s author and illustrator Jan Brett. Read interviews and biographies to find out what books she has written and illustrated. Includes online activities, classroom activities, and lesson plans.

Colonial America
These websites are about life in colonial North America, particularly the English colonies. Learn how colonists lived, explore original documents, and find out who lived in these regions before the English settled there. There are interactives, games, quizzes, videos, and more. Included are eThemes resources on the thirteen colonies as well as “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving.

Literature: “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan
Find summaries and reviews of the book “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan. Read the biography and an interview with the author. Learn about Mexico, the Mexican Revolution, the Great Depression, migrant workers, and labor camps. The following sites include photographs, maps, video files, a lesson plan, and a quiz.

Literature: “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” by Beverly Cleary
These sites are about “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” by Beverly Cleary. There are lesson plans, activity ideas, teacher guides, a webquest, and online quizzes specifically for the book “The Mouse and the Motorcycle.” There are links to eThemes Resources on author Beverly Cleary, “Ralph S. Mouse”, and mice.

Missouri: Juvenile Justice System
These websites are about Missouri’s Juvenile Justice System. There is information about the history of the system, how Missouri’s system compares to other states, lesson plans, and information about real cases that went through the system.

Reading Skills: Inference for Middle School Students
These websites are about using inference while reading. Find out why inference skills are important and how to infer while reading. Includes lessons, activities, and graphic organizers. There is a link to an eTheme on inference skills for elementary school students.

World War II for Elementary Students
These websites are about World War II. Learn why the war started and what life was like for children during the war. Includes games, quizzes, videos, and audio interviews with World War II veterans. There are links to eThemes resources on the Holocaust and the 1930s.

Writing: Biographies
These sites offer tips for writing biographies. There are lesson plans, helpful handouts, rubrics, an online tutorial, and examples of biographies written by elementary students. Also include a video on writing process.

If you have not checked out eThemes, do so now. There are all kinds of great resources ready for your perusal. No need to waste precious time searching for just the right resources, appropriate for your students. The community of teachers and contributors at eThemes have done the work for you!

Zac Early is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center. Besides heading up Networked Teaching & Learning, he occasionally blogs at Suppl_eMINTS.

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.

RSS Feeds in Microsoft Outlook (YouTube Video)

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 –
The Clever Sheep –
Teachers Love SMART Boards –
Weblogg-ed –
Suppl_eMINTS –

*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.

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