4ALL: Looking Back – Reflecting on the Year

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” – James Levin

As teachers, we know and value the reflection process.  That time when we can think about what worked and what didn’t.  It’s a time to look critically at aspects of our year and make them a learning experience for our personal and professional growth; a way to think about how we can continue and/or change practices to meet the needs of our students.  Reflection is that piece that allows us to refine our skills and identify areas that we want to improve.  A way to develop effective action.  A true goal setting opportunity.

Here is a series of questions that may help you as you look back over the past year and assess your personal growth.

  • How did your year go and what makes you feel that way?
  • How did it go compared to what you thought might happen?
  • What things did you do that influenced the outcome of your year?
  • What skills, talents, and resources did you draw on to shape your learners?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What are you learning about yourself?
  • When might you apply your new learning in the future?
  • In what ways has this reflection supported your thinking and learning?

Carmen Marty, Terri Brines, & Brooke Higgins are eMINTS Instructional Specialists and Cognitive Coaching/eMINTS Agency Trainers. For more information about Cognitive Coaching and related seminars visit the eMINTS National Center events page.

Tucker, L. (Photographer). (2010). Reflections!. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/photographygal123/4948968848/

Monday’s Message: Supporting Thinking

eMINTS & Cognitive Coaching: A Professional Development Opportunity

Ever wish you could communicate more effectively with the people you supervise, work with or train? Do you find it challenging to help people solve complicated problems they are facing or to change how they are teaching or working with others?

The Cognitive Coaching Foundation Seminar® is an eight-day professional development opportunity for instructional coaches, administrators, teachers, mentors, professors, supervisors, eMINTS PD4ETS program participants, certified Educational Technology Specialists and anyone who wants to encourage self-directedness of others. Participants will learn strategies to increase others’ thinking potential and mediate thinking when working with someone who is planning, reflecting or struggling with a problem. Cognitive CoachingSM – a research-based model – encourages the process of decision-making to achieve goals through metacognition.

If you are interested in learning more about supporting people in becoming self directed please visit http://www.emints.org/programs/cognitivecoaching/index.shtml to learn more about our Fall 2011 Cognitive CoachingSM Foundations Seminar.

Carmen Marty, Terri Brines, & Brooke Higgins are eMINTS Instructional Specialists and are becoming Cognitive Coaching/eMINTS Agency Trainers.

HD_Links: Networked Teaching and Learning

As educators we are constantly searching out opportunities to grow professionally through conferences and workshops. Sometimes those issues of time, money, and of course the big one, being out of the classroom once again, rear their ugly heads and make the opportunities seem impossible. That’s why networking has become such a valuable asset to the teaching community. We need to learn from each other. With that in mind, I would like to share 3 of my favorite blogs that I follow in the hope that you might find them of interest and value too.

1. Teacher Challenge – A blog dedicated to professional learning. It is divided into 30 day professional learning challenges to increase your knowledge and skills on a variety of topics. Best of all, you go through it at in any order and at your own pace.

2. Master Learners – Ok, I follow the facebook page more than the actual blog but it is a page so worth following. It provides resources and information on current education topics. I love the way this focuses on educators as life-long learners.

3. Teachers Love SMART Boards – What an appropriate title because they do. This provides files and sites that are perfect for SMART Boards.

Now it’s your turn to share. Please comment with at least one tool or resource of some type that aids in your professional growth so I can possibly add it to my list.

Terri Brines is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

HD Links: Presidents Day Resources

Public Domain, click for source

With Presidents Day fast approaching, there are some great resources out there to get your week off to a great start!

What better resource for presidential information than the world’s largest library; the Library of Congress? A search can be performed for a particular topic/person or you can go to the presidency page. If you are looking for presidential papers, a large collection can also be found here. There is a portion devoted to the diaries of George Washington. These documents provide a more personal look at George Washington and his thoughts. There is even a section of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library that is housed in the Library of Congress.

For those George Washington buffs, there are several great resources for studying our first president. Take a tour of Mt. Vernon. The History Channel has plenty of videos and other information about the “father of our country.” Discover George Washington has an interactive timeline with lots of information and multimedia resources.

Abraham Lincoln, another very popular president, has just as many great online resources as Wasington. The History Channel covers “Honest Abe” as only the History Channel can. Abraham Lincoln’s Crossroads is an interactive site that explains the decisions that Lincoln was faced with in his presidency. Smithsonian’s new exhibit on Lincoln shows the many faces of the 16th president through a series of portraits.

Interactive sites for the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial also exist hereand there are many more presidential resources at TeachersFirst.com.

H/T to eMINTS Instructional Specialist Terri Brines for the many great resources!

Friday 4ALL: A Diamond in the Sea of Social Networks

We can learn so much from each other and social networks are just the place for that to happen.  Finding the really good and beneficial ones can often be quite the job.
One social network that provides so much information and support is Classroom 2.0. This is a network dedicated to social media among educators.  Just visiting it and joining will provide you with a wealth of information but a part that I think is absolutely fantastic are the weekly webinars or Classroom 2.0 LIVE.  These webinars are on a variety of topics like web 2.0 tools, classroom strategies, ideas for communicating with parents; just to name a few.  They are conducted through Elluminate, a great tool in itself. The site provides a list of links for the webinar so you can access anything mentioned.
Sounds great, right? The greatness doesn’t stop there.  They also have…. ta-da, archived recordings of past webinars. (Such a great idea!)  Think of all those times you can’t make a webinar but really want the information.  It also contains follow up reading or viewing suggestions.  This is like the crown jewel of all social networks for me.  I hope you will enjoy it as well.
Terri Brines is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.
To see what else eMINTS is doing with social networking, check out our groups on Facebook and Linked-In. Also, follow me on Twitter at @Zac_eMINTS. -Zac

HD Links: Black History Resources

A good website for Black History month is Scholastic.  This site has information and resources for different grade levels.  There are various interactive activities and suggestions for books.  Some of the topics covered are African American inventors, musicians, authors, civil rights leaders, and the Underground Railroad.

Terri Brines is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Also, be sure to check out Debbie Perkins’ post on Martin Luther King resources here. And, of course, there’s always Larry Ferlazzo’s list of resources. -Zac

Big Huge Labs

I don’t know if any of you have had the chance to look at Big Huge Labs before, but it is well worth the visit.  This is a Flickr site so it is image based but as I look at some of the “toys” they provide, I think what a cool way for students to demonstrate their understanding, for example, during the “Explain” portion of an inquiry lesson.

Here are a few of their “toys” and ideas I came up with…

  • Trading Card – Provide information about an individual, concept, or new vocabulary word.
  • Badge Maker – Create a badge about a book character, historical figure, or even maybe a character trait.
  • Movie Poster – Great way to review a book.
  • Magazine Cover – Think about highlighting a concept by providing a magazine cover devoted totally to it.
  • Motivator – Another way to do vocabulary, concepts, or character traits.
  • Map Maker – Chart the path of explorers, westward expansion, the overtaking of empires.
  • Billboard – “If you’ve got something important to say, say it BIG. Billboardize your message and a fabulous photo!”
  • Captioner – Interesting to see if they really understand a character.

There are many more “toys” on this site.  I’m sure there are a lot of other ideas which I would love to hear about.  Let me know what you think and what you would do with these various tools at Big Huge Labs.

Terri Brines is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

My Backyard Links to Authentic Learning Ideas and Resources

Sometimes when I began thinking about making those real world connections in a lesson my mind would go blank.  It’s easy when my kids came bouncing in all fired up about something but often I looked at the standards and had to figure out: How am I going to make this relevant to the students?  How on earth am I going to find the resources for them to investigate what they need?    I felt like I spent my time doing a lot of hunting.  The hunting thought sparked an idea.   Sometimes ideas and resources were as simple as looking or hunting in my own backyard.

So, here are my backyard links that I used to help me with this process.
  • National Wildlife Federation site provides information about eco-schools, school yard habitats, climate change, and volunteer opportunities.   There is also information on the Gulf oil spill as well as going green. (Also)
  • National Wild Turkey Federation site has connections to careers; particularly biologists, information about programs by state,  habitats, and conservation.
  • Audubon Society site has information and tips for classrooms as well as detailed information about their initiative with Toyota called Together Green; Act Today to Shape Tomorrow program.
  • The National Park Service  has an entire section about Teaching with Historical Places targeting grades 5-12.  Wow, think about the connection you could make to Google Earth.  The site can be searched by state as well and the Teaching with Historical Places site can be searched by curriculum standards.
  • The US Government even has a page full of government resources for K-8 educators at Kids.gov.  This provides links to government resources from a variety of areas.  Places you never even thought about.  It is definitely well worth the time to look.
Many of these resources first sound like science oriented sites, but don’t let their name fool you.  They often contain information and ideas for interdisciplinary connections as well.
Even though the following resources are targeted at Missouri, they might help educators in other states or countries, to get ideas of where to find local resources.
  • Missouri Department of Conservation – MDC has information for inside and outside the classroom. The Discover Nature Schools is a big part of this site.  Targeting grades 3-12, its purpose is to provide information about Missouri nature.
  • Missouri Department of Natural Resources – This site provides information on a variety of topics including Earth Day; with a list of contests even, to information on creating and maintaining worm farms.
  • Missouri Secretary of State provides a site for kids with information about Missouri history and government.  The Missouri Senate also has a kid’s page with additional information.
I hope that these links might help you as well to make connections for your students and spark ideas for real world learning experiences.   Happy hunting!

Terri Brines is a program coordinator with the eMINTS National Center.

Videoconferencing: Let the adventure begin!

When thinking about enhancing the learning experiences of students, traveling outside the classroom has been an interesting possibility.  With the financial situation of our schools in mind, field trips that were so important in the past might not be a reality due to the limited funding available.  One alternative might be to take advantage of technology in the form of videoconferencing.

Videoconferencing is a simultaneous, two-way, interactive communication with video and audio.  It requires anything from basic equipment of a webcam, microphone, and speakers to more advanced systems such as a Polycom.  Imagine the excitement of the students as they visit with the author of their current book study.  Think of the questions students would generate as they prepare for an interview with someone from England to gain the countries perspective on the American Revolution, or discuss cultural traditions with students from China.

Videoconferencing is a way to make these possibilities come true.  It can introduce students to professionals and other classrooms in a way they hadn’t imagined before.  It opens up unlimited opportunities to go beyond the classroom walls to connect with experts and develop global awareness.   When students formulate questions or interact globally, their minds and imagination are stretched in new and exciting ways.  Their interest and motivation often increases and a renewed curiosity of learning can be sparked.

With the variety of free online tools available for communication, videoconferencing may be easier than ever before.  One of the many sites that offer free videoconferencing capabilities that take advantage of the webcam, microphone, and speakers is Skype.

So, how do you go about finding these experts and classrooms?  There are many resources available to find and assist in the setup of a video conference.  If you are interested in partnering with another classroom you might first try posting to the eMINTS discussion list to find other eMINTS classrooms.  There are also many sites that provide directories and projects such as the ones listed below:

Even though many video conferences are free, be sure to read all the details carefully to make sure what procedures and possible expenses may be involved with the conference.

If a more sophisticated system is something you are interested in, one system that is worth looking at is a Polycom system.  Although many of the directories and conferences associated with a polycom system often has a fee, the Polycom site does offer a list of 391 free video conferences.

For more thoughts and ideas on the use of videoconferencing in the classroom, take a look at Videoconferencing with Elementary School Students and Making Video-Conferencing More Than Just Cool.

Videoconferencing can be an incredible experience for both teachers and students as they travel beyond the classroom walls without leaving the building.    Maybe it’s time to give video conferencing a try and let the adventure begin

Terri Brines is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.