Goodbye Flowgram

When I learned how to use Flowgram, I thought it was the best tool ever! Where else could you combine text, images, perhaps PowerPoint slides, websites, and recorded narration to create an online presetation that was interactive? I created a couple of Flowgrams and the one on Information Literacy had several hits and I promoted it with my staff and in presentations I made for ICE. I’m not really upset that all my hard work is going to waste (I could, afterall, download it as a video from the site just before it goes completely dead.) These kind of presentations need to updated anyway. I am, however, looking for the next cool tool! I don’t care if these new fangled Web2.0 tools either start charging or cease to exist. It’s all about transfer of knowledge. I’ll use what I learned when creating my Flowgrams to create an enhanced Podcase in GarageBand – which will not go away anytime soon.

So, if you see any nifty new thing that needs trying, give me a shout! I love trying new things. (Just make sure it’s free.)

Did You Know a Mac Could Do That?

Carol Ann McGuire, the ISTE 2008 Teacher of the Year, and working on her current project RockOurWorld. Apple invited her to speak to a group of educators about her work with special needs students, particularly with students with visual disabilities. Among other things, she showed us a few really great video projects that her students have produced using Apple iLife. The videos can be accessed from here: Get a Clue: What We Can Do!

In addition, Carol showed us some features of the Apple that facilitate differentiated instruction. Here’s some tips and tricks that Carol showed us:

  • Using the application Text Edit (small word processing app similar to Windows Word Pad) – check out the Services menu.
  • Paste source text from a website, online book, or other text into a Text Edit document. Under the Text Edit > Services > Speech > Start Speaking Text. Let the computer read the text. Check out this screencast.
  • Take that idea one step further. If your students needs to listen to an article at a later time, create a podcast of a section of a book or an article. Take a look at this article about how it can be done.
  • The Text Edit program can summarize a large source text. After a set of text is pasted, highlight it, and then under the Text Edit > Services > Summarize. You can control how short the summary will be. High light a couple hundred words and the computer will summarize it into a sentence. Pretty amazing! Use this strategy to help students with reading comprehension. Perhaps it may also be a way to analyze their own writing. Use the summarize feature to check the message of an essay. Take a look at this screencast.
  • Both these features also work with Safari. Safari can read the text of a website as well as summarize a section of text.
  • Press and hold Apple+Control+D over any word in the Safari application and up pops a handy dandy Dictionary/Thesaurus.

  • Check out the Zoom in Feature. Under system preferences > Universal Access > turn on Zoom. You can also turn it on automatically by holding down option/command/8. This makes the screen zoomable by holding down option/command/+. This feature is a great way to present content, but for visually impaired students the zoom feature is essential. In addition, students can adjust the display colors and contrast of the screen to make it easier to see. It’s amazing how many of these kind of features are built right into the Mac.

  • There is an amazing capability to give your computer verbal commands. I haven’t figured out how to do it yet, but watch Brandon, one of Carol’s students explain it.

This document will provide more information about meeting the needs of diverse learners. diverse_learners_guide_leopard_version_2

My Brush with Greatness

I recently attended an Administrators’ Academy all-day workshop with Alan November. I have seen him speak a few times before and I have one of his books, so I was really excited to attend this conference. He was awesome! His message is compelling but it’s his style of presenting that makes spending the day with him so enjoyable. He is a passionate educator that filled his talk with anecdotal stories and case studies that really drives home his points. Here is an outline of his message along with some reflection about my own experience:

Technology is a tool that adds richness to teaching and learning. It allows teachers and students to do things that would have never been possible without it. It’s not technology for technology sake – but a way to make connections, develop relationships, collaborate, and express ourselves creatively.

The current curriculum should be “globalized”. We need to teach kids to be reflective and understand that everything needs to be viewed from many perspectives. He gave the example of looking at the American Revolution from the British perspective by accessing curriculum materials from the UK or even talking to a teacher or students from the UK to find out how they are learning about the American Revolution. An example from our district is requiring students from the Middle School foreign language classes to find articles about current events from newspapers and media sources from Spanish speaking countries – not just from our country’s media.

Rethink Assessment and provide opportunities to create content. Find a balance between focusing on standardized assessment tools and offering students the opportunity to develop higher level thinking skills with projects and activities that ask them to create, make decisions, and work with others. In our district, we can demonstrate many examples of how kids use creativity and problem solving skills. Sometimes they don’t even use a computer – but we are prepared to help them do things like create videos too.

Understand the concept of information literacy and know that using the web to find information is a complex process. With the help of the Library Media Specialist in our district, I created a presentation that combined much of the concepts from Alan November’s book as well as the Standards for the 21st Century Learner from the American Association of School Librarians. You can find that presentation here. Basically, we can’t ask students to “go find it on the web” without first considering how construct a query, locate information, and evaluate the source. Although many teachers disregard the complexity of the Internet and still expect their student to “google” everything, we are getting much better at providing better preparation for using the Internet effectively and efficiently.

Based on what I learned that day, I think the change I would most likely implement is to utilize the free tools such as Skype to connect our students to the world. Alan spent a great deal of time giving examples and making recommendations about how a simple thing like a Skype call in a classroom can really transform a learning experience. We used Skype twice this year to connect our students to classrooms in Canada and Texas. I know that was a fun experience. I will look for more opportunities for other classrooms to make connections to help students understand that the world is only a Skype call away.

In addition, I would facilitate more opportunities for students to create content for a wider audience – making sure that really rich projects are showcased on the web. I’ll start by showing teachers projects from YouTube, wikis, and blogs to demonstrate what is possible, then offer support so that projects don’t become “just one more thing”.

Teachers Who are Learners

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.  ~John Cotton Dana

Miss. H. and her new cartDo you work with anyone that really epitomizes a life-long learner? Here’s a picture of someone I know who inspires me! Miss H. is an awesome computer teacher. Here are a few reasons why she inspires me!

Miss H. learns something every day. She’s constantly experimenting with different applications, asking lots of questions, and problem solving.

She is always pouring over books web resources to find new activities and her students rarely learn using the last year’s lesson plans.

When I first met Miss H. a little over a year ago, she claimed to have no idea what was Web 2.0. Now she’s on twitter, following blogs (her favorite is Technology Lessons), contributes to a wiki, and is enthusiastic about using the Read/Write web with her students (

She loves to contribute to a collaborative learning environment in her school. She did an awesome job when asked to teach some workshops, she spent a great deal of time preparing for her workshops and even created a book of lesson ideas for her attendees. She turned out to be a great presenter and everyone really enjoyed themselves.

During MAP testing, there are no extra classrooms for her to use with her students, so she teaches in the hallway with laptops. Even though she hates that situation (for obvious reasons), around her students, she acts like teaching in the hallway with laptops is the greatest adventure ever! This semester she’ll at least be using brand new laptops!

Above all, her students are her greatest joy and concern. Absolutely every effort she makes is for the benefit of the children she touches.

Who inspires you?

What Twitter Means to Me

A recent article shows that 11% of online adults are on Twitter. A bunch of my face-to-face friends and colleagues have signed up for twitter accounts as a direct result of my influence. I’ve promised them that I’ll help them find a way to maximize their use of the Twitter so its a valuable tool for professional development. For the longest time, I’ve been working on a post that will provide my friends good tips and tricks to get started. In addition, I want to offer encouragement to stick with it, since it takes some time to find a rich group of people to follow and to feel like you are making a real contribution to the community. I’ll admit that I can’t write a blog post that’s any more effective than the ones written by members of my personal learning network. So guys…read the posts by Liz Davis and Willis Whitlock. Check out the wiki Twitter for Teachers and take a use this spreadsheet. What the heck…if you not overwhelmed already, here’s all my delicious links tagged Twitter.

I joined Twitter about a year ago I have a clear intention on why I use it. I want to be engaged with a group of educators who are generous with their time and effort to improve the educational experience of students. In my position as technology integration specialist, I am convinced that I need to know everything. I think that my position demands that I’m aware of new tools, trends, and research about not just technology, but curriculum, teaching strategies, NCLB, social media, and internet safety. With regard to my engagement with Twitter as a professional development tool, I have a set of guidelines that have worked for me and not to add to the numerous “rules and regulations”, I call these my “twitter habits”:

  • I find almost all of the people I follow from the people I follow. I click on their “following” link and scan their list for educators, and click on “follow”. I follow plenty of people, but I like to find new members of my group by following those who get “@” messages on my list of tweets.
  • When someone follows me, I look at their picture (they better have one – although a lot of my PLN have silly avatars), their profile, and recent tweets. I won’t follow a newby unless I know them face to face. I’m looking for contribution and commitment.
  • With a couple of specific exceptions (more on that later), I only follow people who are connected with education – past or present, from early childhood teachers to university professors. I block marketers, goth bands, or anyone who uses the word “sexy” in their profiles or recent tweets. I don’t block educational products’ tweets, but I rarely follow them.
  • I limit my tweets to questions, compliments, answers to questions, and links. I occasionally write “going to walk to dog” or “anyone want a free teenager” and other “life” tweets because I think it helps develop relationships with the people in my network. I respond to the “life” tweets of others because I also think that showing interest in someone’s life is important to relationship building.
  • I follow news and media sources because I’m really interested in what’s going on in the world. My favorite is BreakingNewsOn  – because…well, I love to know about breaking news.

The question I get from people is “How do you have time?”. I found a strategy that works, but it helps that I’m ADD, I sit in front of the TV every evening, and I never read books that don’t directly relate to the impact of technology. Just to prove a point, I spent a little time tracking how Twitter has made me smarter in the past 2 weeks:

I attended a mini-conference that I forgot was taking place in my area, but I was reminded by fsinfo (On the morning of the conference twitter helped my find the right school entrance)

I virtually attended a graduate class taught by Alec Couros

I bookmarked the following in various ways for sharing with my staff, my PLN, the general public, or keep “just in case”:

  • 25 tools, resources, articles, and studies relating to teen online behavior and Internet Safety
  • 24 sites that had specific or a collection of K-8 student projects using various web2.0 tools
  • 10 resources, lesson plans and tutorials for interactive whiteboards as a result of posting a tweet about needing some
  • 8 resources that can be used to enhance instruction in Social Studies, including history, geography, and government
  • 8 tools, resources, articles, and research that will help me prepare for a presentation and the preparation of an information literacy curriculum
  • 8 resources relating to copyright issues
  • 8 links relating to social networking (other than internet safety)
  • 7 new Web2.0 tools
  • 6 YouTube or media converters/video search engines
  • 6 Articles of interest from national media sources such as the Washington Post, CNN, and the New York Times that I may need to refer to sometime
  • 4 resources that can be used to enhance instruction in Language Arts including reading, phonics, and writing
  • 4 Blog posts that I want to refer to later
  • 4 resources about cell teen phone trends and cell phone etiquette
  • 3 resources that can be used to enhance instruction in Art
  • 3 new tools that I could use for professional development of the staff in my district
  • 2 resoruces relating to the program Scratch
  • 2 wikis similar to the one we use for our district
  • 1 resource that relates web 2.0 to Marzano
  • 1 Tutorial site for Google Sketchup
  • 1 portal of university professor lectures/open courseware

My response is….”How can I not take the time to tap into the rich knowlege and professional generosity of hundreds of colleagues on a regular basis.”

7 Things You Don’t Know About Me

I’ve been tagged. How pathetic is to be asked to be tagged? Oh well…thanks Carol Broos for passing this on. 

Teaching is a second career for me. I have an associates degree from a trade school in fashion merchandising. I worked for Marshall Field’s (now Macy’s) for 10 years, working my way up from stock person to the buying office. (I bought stationary, greeting cards, and flowers). My last position was in 1990 was in a newly created IT department, training buyers on a system of automating purchase orders. I hated it. I swore I would never work with computers for as long as I live.

I am an only child. My mom was an only child, and so was my dad. Even though I did not grow up with influences of siblings or even first cousins, my maternal grandmother had 4 brothers and sisters whom she was extremely close. I grew up with the love of many aunts and uncles. I saw all of them every Saturday night when they came to our house for a weekly poker game.

When I was a young girl, I wanted to be a dancer. I took ballet, tap, and jazz dance lessons from age 3 until after high school. In fact, I was registered to go to Columbia Collage of Performing Arts right after high school. My life got side tracked when my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I still love to dance, although I’m pretty out of shape, but as soon as they come up with Dancing with the MIddle Aged Teachers, I’m there!

When I was 24, I was in a serious car accident. I was hit head on by a drunk driver. My leg was broken in 3 places and I had surgery to repair it with a rod, pins, and plates. To this day, I suffer the affects with arthritis in my joints in my right leg.

I married my high school sweetheart. I met my husband Jeff when I was 15. My friend’s boyfriend fixed us up because Jeff had a car and would have been able to drive on double dates. That other couple broke up a couple weeks later. We got married after dating for 9 years, and have been married for 22 years.

I love dogs. I grew up with a german shepherd named Kim. After Kim, when I was a teenager, I had a schnauzer named Max. My husband is not a dog person, but after 20 years, we finally got a dog. Her name is Tillie and she is the coolest golden doodle dog ever!

My dream job would be as a college professor. I didn’t get my college degree in elementary education until I was in my mid 30’s and I think that because of that, I have an enormous passion for learning and a great deal of empathy for learners. Even then, I knew at that time that someday, I would be a professor. I have a great deal to learn before I can do that though. My shorter terms goals are to someday be a school principal.

So there you have it….a few things about me. It’s been really fun learning about all of us. Check out this wiki to find out about others in our PLN. I’m afraid that I’m running out of people to tag. How about Ken Shelton, Mrs. Durff, Pam Eder,  Julie Squires, and Shannon Smith. If you’ve been tagged already, pass it on.



Free Rice Just Got Bigger

I’m not a big fan of “drill and kill” tools on the web, but there are some circumstances where student benefit from repetition when trying to master a skill. For example, I have a little friend who is trying to master his multiplication tables. When required to memorize, repetition is sometimes a good strategy. He plays lots of games on the internet and I’m going to add FreeRice to his collection. FreeRice has just expanded their subject list to include Art, Languages, Geography, and Science. If you have some free time, spend it at FreeRice, learning and contributing rice to the UN World Food Program

Give Them Credit

As far as students being responsible for writing a bibliography, there are a couple of ways to look at the issue. First of all, the point of the bibliography is to site the sources used in the information presented. If the teachers provide the sources, then the sources are known. Does the student use all of the sites that are offered? If not, then which ones? Do the students know how to identify the information required for the bibliography? Do they know where to find it?

I will say this: Creating a bibliography from scratch is RIDICULOUSLY LABOR INTENSIVE for little kids who don’t know a domain name from a carrot stick, and who can’t type more than a word a minute. If the teachers are unenthusiastic about doing a bibliography is because one has to weigh the effort/time issue. It can and does take an entire class period to find and type the information in the bibliography.

Here’s a thought: Very often websites and legitimate research provides a “site source” at the bottom of the page. One example of this is All articles from have a “Site Source” list at the bottom because Answers pulls from several different research resources i.e. online encyclopedias. When one uses information from one of the many articles, he needs to use which ever one in the list he took the information from. Then all he needs to do is copy and paste the source because all the information is already put in the proper format for a MLA or APA bibliography (it’s indicated). (See Picture attached.) That was a long way of saying that maybe when sources are provided for the students, copyright information could also be provided for the students so all they would have to do is copy and paste the information like from Answers.

In addition, I think that since the high school and college kids all use bibilography maker tools, that we should be teaching elementary school kids to use tools like easybib to create their bibliographies. Here’s a list of tools to create bibliographies:
EasyBib – this is the preferred tool because you can complete the entire bibliography and then download the complete sources sited document.
OttoBib – enter the ISBN of books and the generator creates the bibliography entry – this is great!!!
Zotero – Firefox extension that helps collect source information for the bibliography
Citation Maker

Of course then the student has to be able to identify all of the required information to fill in the fields and then take the time to type in the author, date, sponsoring organization, etc. I’ve taught kids to identify those components and copy and paste as much as they can to save time.

EtherPad – Collaborative Writing Tool

I’ve been promoting GoogleDocs everywhere I go lately. My school district is using GoogleDocs as a kind of “share point”, putting curriculum materials and other files that is shared among the staff and administrators. The potential for collaboration is amazing. With my friends on Plurk, I’ve tried a new tool that is a great deal of potential. As GoogleDocs has proven to be problematic in our district because users are not getting emails from google on our district email, this tool might be a way to introduce teachers and even students to collaborative writing, without the need to join, log on, and verify email address. Etherpad allows for a number of people to type into the same document simultaneously. This tool has great potential for students as well because the users do not have to use an email to log on or sign in to the document.  

EtherPad: Realtime Collaborative Text Editing via kwout

Here are a few ideas we came up with:


  • Book reviews
  • Meeting minutes
  • Small group writing or brainstorming
  • Newspaper club submit articles for proofreading
  • Daily Oral Language
  • Peer Editing

Take a look at this site. Can you think of any other good uses?

Internet Safety – It’s all about parents!

The issues of internet safety is going to be on the front burner in technology education in Illinois as legislation has been passed to make teaching the concept mandatory as of next school year. I’ve pulled together several articles and resources here.  I fear that programs that schools design will be ineffective because kids will see right through the grown-up’s approach to warning children about social networking. The typical approach is to instill fear about sexual predators with little regard to the truth about who engages in sexual abuse of children (most being parents and other people known to the victim). Another typical approach is to stress that the most important part of internet safety is to limit personal information on profiles, with little mention that most harassment occurs by those known to the child in the form of cyberbullying. Some kids see right through all the fear mongering and much of the information presented is dismissed as “lame”. Students who put themselves at risk will not recognize themselves in the presentation of cautionary content, and all others will go with “it won’t happen to me.”

Internet Safety programs need to take technology out of the equation and redirect the message to the parents. Take a look at the description of a program written by Nancy Willard, one of the foremost experts on the subject.