Thursday, September 10, 2009

Read Alouds & Mr. Peck

I just recently gave my Oklahoma Sequoyah Children's booktalk and genre introduction lesson to my 3rd and 4th grade students. After I provided a brief introduction to genre using the posters I shared in an earlier blog I gave a short summary of the sixteen titles included in the 2010 contest where we determined the possible genre of the book.

Due to the reading level and/or length of the books, I encourage my 3rd and 4th grade teachers to read at least 2 titles to the class and possibly 3 so that every child will be eligible to vote in April. Our district has always believed that reading aloud to students, especially books that are above their independent reading level, was a good way to introduce them to new authors, more complex sentence structure and plot development, and new vocabulary. Teachers always stop to explain complicated situations in the story and pose questions to help students better understand the plot and the vocabulary.

Tonight, as I was trying to get caught up in reading my GoogleReader RSS accounts, I came across an interesting blog from The Reading Zone that discussed an interview with Richard Peck in Notes from the Horn Book where he "scolded" teachers that read his books aloud to an entire class. I was relieved that the author went on to defend the value of read alouds.

If you believe that reading books aloud to your students has educational merit, remember to reference the research of Jim Trelease. Here's an article from Education World that included statements from Jim Trelease plus comments from teachers to support the benefits that students receive from read alouds. Not only are read alouds used to develop a love a literature, but they can also to be used to improve classroom climate, to provide a print-rich environment, and to increase the ratio of books to students. The article includes three examples to make read alouds work for comprehension, to highlight math concepts, and to include parents.

As the author from The Reading Zone stated in the article, perhaps Mr. Peck was misunderstood in the interview and his statement was not a direct reference against reading aloud to students. In my opinion, Jim Trelease and his research makes a solid statement for the value of read alouds.

What are your thoughts about read alouds?
What benefits have your students experienced from read alouds?
Are there certain titles that you like to read aloud to your students for specific reasons?

If you need some ideas of what to read to your class, you might go to Jim Trelease's web site for his "Read-Aloud of the Week." And you might even ask your school librarian for a suggestion! :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"Into the Book" & Other Visual Resources

As I move into my newly expanded media center at Cedar Heights :), I'm trying to weed and organize my decorations and bulletin board items. I already discarded most of the "holiday" stuff several years ago. In the last few years, I have used my bulletin board and chart resources to create visual displays of information that students can read in the hallway while waiting in line for the drinking fountain or bathrooms. Our principals stress the need to make every minute count for learning and so this was my response to that directive. Students can keep their minds actively engaged while they view a display about animal classification that includes colorful posters of animals with a chart of selected vocabulary words (predator, prey, camouflage, etc.) and put the information to work by mentally filling in blanks on a Venn diagram. Or it might be a poster identifying the parts of a dictionary with a set of words to alphabetize on one side and practice with guide words on the other side.

One display that I have used for a few years offers some great posters on reading comprehension strategies with additional information on reading called Into the Book, a reading comprehension strategies program from Wisconsin. It is set up with separate sections for teachers and students in grades K-4 (although I think it could be used into 6th grade). Students will need to set up a login but teachers can access the majority of the site for free! Reading strategies focus on Prior Knowledge, Making Connections, Questioning, Visualizing, Inferring, Summarizing, Evaluating, Synthesizing, and Using Other Strategies. The interactive site features video clips, downloads of strategy posters and songs, teaching tips, and more. Be sure to look in the "Other Resources" tab for pdf files on teacher guides, summaries, bibliographies, and more to print. I think this site is amazing with all of the information it offers!

Another site to check out for additional reading strategies is called Just Read Now It offers innovative and effective reading strategies in addition to lesson plans. The focused strategies can be applied across academic disciplines and learner levels and are grouped into four areas that include Discussion, Active Reading, Vocabulary, and Organization. Although this site does not feature posters, it contains additional links to resources for teacher background information as well as some pdf pages to print.

Another hallway display that I use features posters on genre that I found on the Troy, Michigan school district site by third grade teacher Beth Newingham. (Note: The genre titles featured in this site may or may not coordinate with the titles your textbooks or teachers use. For example, some of my teachers use the title "adventure" which is not used in this site.) Be sure to browse this site for other great ideas!

Currently I'm thinking/working on a display about poetry and elements of poetry, such as alliteration, hyperbole, etc. at the request of third grade teachers at one of my schools. (I consider that the ultimate compliment--a request for a display!) I found a good poster to start off and plan to feature an element with an example every so often. We're hoping this will act as a "word wall" to help students become more familiar with some of these fun, odd words (onomatopoeia!!) as well as to be able to identify their usage in poetry and other reading selections. Thus, I would really appreciate ideas or specific poems that would help us achieve this hallway learning goal!!

I guess the bottom line is that I believe that visual learning is very powerful and I hope these hallway displays create interest in learning as well as a "picture" to retain the information for future reference.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Thinking about Nonfiction & AR

Nonfiction is on my mind these days. It is an area of reading that students love and I believe that they need. I'm currently searching online vendors for nonfiction books for my two 1st-4th grade schools. Criteria includes subject matter, reading level, quality information and illustrations, the inclusion of a contents and index page, and an Accelerated Reader (AR) quiz.

Last year, my 3rd and 4th teachers joined me in an experiment where we allowed students to take an AR nonfiction book with them to the computer to use as they took the quiz. This is not our normal AR protocol but we wanted our students to have a hands-on experience with nonfiction books to build the skill of "locating the answer" and of actually using the table of contents/index/glossary pages to find that information more efficiently.

Students were required to read the book before taking the test to become familiar with the book's content and organization. They were also required to mark the quiz as "W--I read this book with someone" since students were using the book WITH the quiz. This helped us group quiz results separately from the fiction books the students read Independently (I) and from books the teachers read To (T) the class for listening comprehension.

You would think that this would be a no-brainer experiment but we found that students had to be taught to use the book. You might be surprised that initially students preferred to "guess" at the answers rather than take the time to look them up. But after a couple of failed tests, they were finally willing to use the parts of the book to locate answers and were quickly rewarded with passing scores. I believe that we should see improvement in reading scores as students learn to better utilize text information in making answer choices. So I am getting excited/worried as I wait for our administrators to share test results with classroom teachers as I hope that our reading experiment made a difference.

As I'm running through email and RSS feeds, I came across a Big Fresh article by Franki Sibberson that has me thinking about what constitutes "nonfiction" these days. Things that I'm thinking about include:
what is necessary tech/info text for my age group of elementary students;
how do we address teaching tech/info text with one dedicated computer lab and only one or two computers per classroom;
what is my role when I'm divided between schools.

Although No Child Left Behind has pushed administrators into a corner of focusing on math and reading to achieve test scores, I believe we must support a broader curriculum to include social studies and science. Social studies and science topics provide great informational text that supports reading skills and naturally creates interest with students.

So I will continue to try to find avenues to intersect the focus of reading with great nonfiction texts involving social studies and science information to meet the needs and interests of our students and satisfy the goals of our administrators with NCLB. Somewhere along the way, I hope to find a way to include more technology in our reading goals. Although higher test scores is not my goal, I believe that higher test scores will be a direct result of these actions as well as to interest students in reading and learning. Good for students--good for schools.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Your Desktop Photo According to Doug

My quest to master Web 2.0 tools this summer is coming along. I've really enjoyed using the Google Reader RSS tool to help manage news subscriptions. However, I find that I keep adding more subscriptions to read and I think that may defeat the purpose somewhat. Right now I'm still figuring out what it is that I really want to read/follow-- that will help me to eventually determine which subs/blogs will get cut from my feedlist.

As I was reading through my RSS backlog recently, I came across this blog by Doug Johnson that I wanted to share as part of the "whatever" in my blog's title. Doug Johnson is the director of media and technology for the Mankato, MN public school system and is a school library/librarian advocate. I really enjoy reading his blog--he is direct and honest in his assessment of national policies affecting education, makes me think and reflect on his viewpoints and how they may affect me and my program, and provides touches of humor now and then. I hope you will enjoy his blog about "Your Computer's Desktop Picture" posted July 22, 2009 on The Blue Skunk Blog.

"What does your computer's desktop picture say about you - your goals, your
values, your motivations?

The picture I see when I turn on my computer and throughout the day is
usually one of my grandsons. Increasingly they are the ones I keep in mind as I
think about the decisions I make at work and the things I write about schools
and libraries.

Now don't look at this as me being all noble or anything. I pretty much
ascribe to the sociobiologist theory that most of a person's actions and decisions can be explained by his lizard brain doing what is most likely to perpetuate his DNA via his offsprings' survival. But not that I don't love my grandsons as well.

Anyway, what's on you computer background? Your spouse, your house, you
dog, somebody else's spouse, your car, Megan Fox in a bikini, a quiet beach with
swaying palm trees? And does it reflect what is important to you*?

*Or does it say that you don't know how to change the picture on your
computer's desktop?"

So what photo is on your desktop? I change mine from time to time. Recently I replaced the boat photo taken on our family's Alaskan cruise to a New Mexico mountain landscape taken by my daughter this summer. I love photos of natural settings and both of these photos remind me of family times in those locations.

But most recently I added a baby ticker from Lilypie to my Facebook profile as well as my desktop since I've found out that my daughter and her husband are expecting a baby boy in December! It didn't take long for this grandma-to-be to find a way to monitor the baby's progress! Two baby tickers that I like are Lilypie and Baby Gaga Lilypie is a cute customized timeline and includes tickers for weddings, vacations, and pets as well. Baby Gaga provides a ticker of baby development and offers a choice of a development phrase or a humorous phrase to accompany the illustration of how the baby would look at that stage.

So, take a look at your desktop photo. Does it "reflect what is important to you?" And if you don't know how to change the image on your desktop, please have someone show you!!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rolling with Reading Ideas

As I keep my eyes open for educational sites, it seems that I have connected with tons of math sites this summer. I find this interesting when I've actually been looking for reading and library types of sites since that is where my teaching area is concentrated!!

So before August rolls around to signal my personal start of the new school year (even though I'm not formally obligated until August 18), I wanted to share some reading ideas and information I've come across recently.

One article concerns read alouds and building community. Community is very important in elementary schools as we address creating a safe, risk-free environment where every individual is respected and valued. Mary Lee Hahn
shares eight read aloud titles to help develop community and classroom connections. She then offers some good tips on expanding these titles to develop reading strategies of summerization, inference, and theme --a great two for one idea!!

Kevin Henkes has several school-related titles that work well for read alouds during the first week of school. One of my personal favorites is Chrysanthemum where the students make fun of a girl's name because it is so long and unusual. And don't forget Wemberly Worried where a young girl worries about everything including if she will have friends at school. And then I love to read Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse where Lilly's once-beloved teacher takes away her prized possession before she gets to share it at show & tell. Here is a link to Teaching Heart with ideas to utilize these titles in elementary classrooms

Read alouds are beneficial to students in elementary and on up all through the year. Shari Frost shares an article on read alouds to start off the year for several age groups. Take a look at the section of the article where she offers suggestions for selecting titles to read at the beginning of the school year emphasizing the often overlooked genre of poetry. Looking at older students, this article from The Reading Zone addresses the use of read alouds in the middle grades with some great suggestions for titles and some additional links.

If you would like readers other than yourself or have a roomful of visual learners, you may consider using sites such as Storyline Online from the Screen Actors Guild Foundation. For animated books, you might consider a subscription to TumbleBooks where you can access a Free Trial. And you might be interested in these titles featured on YouTube

And lastly, I want to remind you of the use of Readers Theater in the classroom. Readers Theater (RT) is a great way to build reading fluency as students practice their parts to include dramatization but it does not require backdrops, props, and movement on a stage as would be required for a play. Aaron Shepard offers free scripts online as does The Reading Lady If you have never utilized RT, please check Mandy Gregory's site for a great detailed RT lesson plan and other sites that offer free scripts.

If you are not ready to commit to RT, at least check out the titles in Mary Ann Hoberman's You Read to Me, I'll Read to You series. In addition to choral reading experiences, this educator's guide pdf from the Hachette Book Group provides several language and cross curriculum ideas to incorporate these books into your classroom.

This is just a fraction of the wonderful reading ideas and articles available online. It would be great to hear about your favorite reading sites and how you plan to roll into the new school year!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Math Madness

Summer is a good time to view educational websites and to update your school web page as I know many teachers look for links for parents to use at home.

Here are some math links that you may want to share with parents but you'll want to check them out for school use as well. These were recommended primarily from Free Technology for Teachers or from TeachersFirst.

Visual Math Learning
This site stresses the importance of visualization in learning. The mission of this site is to "provide parents and classroom teachers with the means to better employ visual imagery. It is designed as a supplementary resource to help students in their mastery of mathematics. It is also designed to help parents to better understand mathematical concepts as they work to assist their children in home learning". The site includes practice exercises and games over integers, fractions, division, and other basic math concepts for elementary and middle school students.

The Math Worksheet Site

This site offers a free section of worksheet generators with limited customizing features for elementary math basics. Math and subtraction problems are offered in both horizontal and vertical formats and you can specify the number of numbers to appear on the page. There is a subscription fee for individuals and school use that offers additional features. This site might be useful when you want to send a practice page to inform parents of a math skill needing practice at home or an extra review page when you have a substitute.

The Problem Site
From TeachersFirst, this free site offers math and word games as well as some printable game worksheets appropriate for grades PK- 12. Games include magic squares, hangman, treasure hunts, strategy games, and others. Do note that this site includes ads on sidebars which may distract younger students. This would be a good site for review practice at school or at home.

Funbrain Math Arcade
This site offers 25 games but you have to win one to progress to the next game. Games are appropriate for grades 1-8. Students determine their level at the beginning of the activity with directions provided for each game. These arcade type games would be fun for review on a SmartBoard in the classroom as well as at home.

More games to explore

Elementary Interactive Math

Homework Spot Math

For teachers
You might be interested to browse these sites for suggestions to assist special needs learners or to provide background information on mathematical concepts. Mathematics

Apples 4 the Teacher Math

Reading and Math Strategies

The Access Center

Jim Wright: Intervention Ideas for Mathematics

Enjoy these last days of summer to explore "math madness" inside the cool of your home!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fantastic Photo Fun

Continuing my Web 2.0 quest this summer, I've enjoyed discovering some free photo creator sites. As I view the "followers" on Twitter and the "friends" on Facebook, I take special notice of the photos and names people use for their profile. Some use a Flickr landscape photograph for their identification or a cartoon graphic or a customized avatar. Others show a portion of their face which indicates an artistic flair yet the photo provides recognition.

I read that you establish more credibility if you use your real name and an actual photo on sites such as Twitter. According to Sebastien Page , Scott Williams , and Carissa Rogers , your "personal branding" creates a more professional and approachable look, especially when you are using Twitter for business (and educational) purposes.

So, being a newbie to social networks, I was hesitant to use an actual photo for security reasons. Yet I didn't want to use an avatar or worse, the default logo for the lack of a photo. I decided to look for a more artistic way to display my photograph and stumbled across some fun free photo editing sites.

First I started playing around with BeFunky which requires no registration and your creations can be saved and shared. On some options, such as the Patriotic selection, I was unable to view or access the necessary buttons to save my creations. I have submitted the problem but it has not changed for me yet. This is a very easy and fun site to use to alter your digital photographs. Additionally, you can have your creation printed onto a t-shirt or coffee mug or other item for gift purposes!!

I used a sketch option with blue coloring for my Twitter account.

I used the same photo but went with the Warholizer option (no other color options available) for my Facebook account.

Finally I used the same photo again but used the Sunburst effect for my blog page. This option has the least amount of photo enhancement as I wanted to look like a real person for this blog.

Another site I discovered was piZap which was created as a photo tool primarily for social networking users to post images to their favorite social networking sites or to embed their photo into websites. It features cartoon balloons, stickers, and photo editing options. Be sure to check out the "Effects" option as it includes the "twirl" effect (as shown in the Obama photo) as well as color options, a blur effect, and others. The altered photos can be downloaded as well as quick posted to many social networks. It is fun, and easy, and most importantly, it is free!
Now I also wanted to release my more artistic side so I tried a site called Psykopaint however I quickly discovered that I'm really not that talented. I would say this site is truly for painting artists that enjoy dabbling with digital photos. I had difficulty controlling the brush and I really didn't know the difference of some of the terminology. It is in Beta form but it is one to watch for upcoming advancements if you know how to paint.
The last site I want to share for now is a free site called Block Posters where you can enlarge photos to poster size. The site suggests that teachers could enlarge particular photos to use on bulletin boards for educational and decorative purposes. The selected photo is printed on several separate pages that you determine for the size you want and then piece together to create the larger final product. Although it appears that the final enlarged product may have a more pixelated finish, for certain situations, this could look quite artistic.

Let me assure you that all of these sites (other than Psykopaint) are very easy to use and are a lot of fun! Consider using them to create special photos for social network pages or for scrapbooks or for whatever makes you happy!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Getting "back" to Backflip!

While some people are using the summer to clean out their garage or closets, I've been attempting to go through My Favorites stored on my home computer. It is getting crazy keeping up with all of the sites I've saved at school and at home. And now I've added to my website stash as I "star" favorites in my Google Reader and Bloglines RSS accounts as well as Twitter posts!! Will the craziness never end??

Previously I used a service called Backflip , a free, Web-based bookmark service to create a personalized archive of wonderful web discoveries so saved sites can go with you from computer to computer. I used this site during my National Board certification process and during my participation in a state tech grant as I traveled to the state department for workshops. It was great to have those sites available in organized folders to access regardless of my location. During that time, I also used the public folders to access sites that other NB/Library Media candidates shared. So why am I no longer using it? Basically, I discontinued using Backflip as it became very slow to load. And after I achieved NB and the grant retired, I found myself using the same computer at school and began saving to My Favorites again.

But the other day I thought I'd check Backflip out again. And behold! All of the folders and many of the sites that I had saved back from 2001 were still in storage!! And better yet--it seemed to load much faster. In reading the status report, a new database machine has been employed which has resulted in faster access and I discovered that Backflip blogs on Twitter to provide service information. This is all very impressive to me as Backflip service is provided free by volunteers.

I have also subscribed to Delicious but again haven't used it much either. I think it has been a time situation--it is just easier to click "Save in Favorites" as opposed to going to another link to save. As I looked back on The 23 Things I posted earlier as I began my Web 2.0 quest, I noticed that Delicious was the social bookmark site associated with the program. So I'll start tagging and saving sites to this account and then compare that experience with my rediscovered Backflip site.

I did go to Diffen to compare Backflip and Delicious and unfortunately, like many of my other searches, this was another comparison that has not been reviewed.

Starting today, I plan to train myself to start using a web bookmark so I can again access my saved sites from either of my two schools or from home and hopefully avoid spending time looking through the cluttered and scattered saved favorites I've collected on various computers. So I'm on my own to find the perks and problems between Backflip and Delicious. Anyone want to join me?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jammin' with Jango

Who doesn't enjoy listening to music while working? Give me the right beat and the usual chore of housework becomes a dance scene!! Slow down the tempo and I am able to relax to sit and complete paper tasks.

Although I enjoy the XM stations on my TV at home, I need some tunes when I'm working at school at the end of the school day. That's when I tune in to these favorites (and of course they are free!!):

The Radio

(These are streaming sites that require bandwidth so your school site may request that you use such sites selectively.)

You'll need to set up a free account to save your profile and music selections. All sites allow you to set up personal playlists or save favorites based on music genre or original artists that you can rate and share. Some of the sites provide additional information about the artists or provide suggestions to other artists as well as the option of purchasing music downloads.

Since these are free sites, you will see ads but some offer a fee-based version without ads. Due to copyright or other agreements, these sites play the songs or artists you request but you also may discover new music as most of the sites also play music similar to the artists/genre you have specified. However, I have found that Playlist allows song after song of your favorite artists that you have saved in a list.

You are able to share your station/playlists on several social networks, such as Facebook and MySpace. Some have options to be shared to your blog or uploaded to a mobile device.

I'm sure there are other free online music sources out there but these are my favorites (so far!). Each has its own perks and problems--so you'll need to check them all out to determine your favorite.

Enjoy and rock on!!! :)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Taking a "cue" from CuePrompter

I was watching a TV program not too long ago that was featuring President Obama's use of the teleprompter during his speeches. Students may wonder if the president and other TV personalities memorize everything they say.

Now I've just recently come across an interesting (and fun!) free site called CuePrompter: the Online Teleprompter that was recommended from TeachersFirst Featured Sites. This tool would help students understand how people are able to give speeches and newscasts without the appearance of notecards.

This tool is free, requires no user/password registration or membership, and is very easy to use. However, it can only be used with Windows software and it does not save your text for future use. The site recommends that you have your text printed in another file or program that you can easily access to copy/paste the needed text into the CuePrompter.

How or why would you use this in the classroom? If you were to project the text onto a white board or a SmartBoard, it could be used in whole class situations. The site mentions its use in foreign language or ESL/ELL classes. Since the text is scrolling, it would require students to be automatic in recognizing and pronouncing the words being displayed. You are able to set the speed of the scrolling as well as some other settings, such as text size and a black or a white background.

Another projected use for a whole class would be to read text to build fluency. Fluency seems to be the most assessed component of reading in my district. The CuePrompter could build reading fluency as students read the text aloud. Each time the text is read, the speed could be increased. I can remember using a speed reading machine when I was in 6th grade (and that's been a long time ago!). After we read the selection, we answered a worksheet to assess our comprehension. Unfortunately, I'm not so sure that comprehension is assessed with fluency these days.

The CuePrompter could also be used in public speaking classes or in cases where students make oral presentations. Students need to learn eye contact skills when addressing an audience. Although notecards or some type of written speech form would be expected prior to the actual oral presentation, the text could be shown on a laptop or computer that only the presenter would view. The use of the CuePrompter would require them to look up to face the audience rather than looking down at their notecards.

Lastly, the site mentions that speech teachers could use this tool to build articulation skills.

What are some other uses for this tech-tool? I'm sure both students and teachers will come up with more applications after it is used a few times in a classroom.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Exploring Twitter and Facebook

Time is getting away from me as I research Web 2.0. How does everyone keep up with monitoring their email, read online blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts, and find time to do laundry, read a book, and other everyday stuff?

I've been exploring both Twitter and Facebook--I view this research as equivalent to taking a summer class and thus it justifies the time I'm spending on it. :) But really, it can become time-consuming--or maybe the key word is "addictive!"

I've been looking at Twitter as a possible home/school communication tool. How many times have you found printed school announcements wadded in the back of student desks and in the bottom of back packs? The intent was clear--provide information to parents--but the mission failed.

As our parent base gets younger and younger, I believe we need to consider communication styles they are accustomed to using--such as texting and social networks. As Twitter only allows 140 characters (note characters and not words), public announcements are kept short and to the point: "Family Night will be held on Tuesday, September 26 at 6:30 pm featuring a first grade presentation." Teachers and the school office can compose short, quick messages on the computer. This helps to save the school paper costs to encourage "green" communication. After parents have been informed of this communication format, they can sign on and "follow" to receive these school memos. Thus, teachers are not spending time entering parent information. Additionally, parents could access the information via their online computer or by mobile devices, such as cell phones with online access.

We may need to consider a "tighter" community than Twitter. From Free Technology for Teachers: Here is a free version of a specific community microblogging program called Comments for education application: "Twitter can be good for getting instant feedback and taking informal surveys of a class. The problem with using Twitter is it's too public for some school settings. provides a free place to get the same type of feedback as you'd gather on Twitter, but in a closed setting."

(6/29/2009 I have recently encountered another free community to use Twitter between teachers and students called Edmodo and here's a slideshow to demonstration how to use Edmodo ).

Now Facebook--it has been fun to explore and I have even found some college sorority sisters through Facebook. I have posted some photos on my profile page and occasionally I will post some obscure comment about nothing. I have even searched friend profiles to see the groups they belong to, how many friends they have, and to view their photos (friend settings can be set to allow other confirmed friends to view profile information so it isn't as though I'm spying even though it feels like I am!).

However, I'm not sure that this social networking tool could be utilized for school communication purposes. Several teachers in our district are already on Facebook so postings may not always be as professional as one would like when a parent can view your activities with "Farm Town" and other Facebook games. Maybe you can tweak the settings in a way that I've not yet determined for this type of professional communication. Or maybe teachers could continue to use Facebook for their own social community and our school could use Twitter for our home/school communications.

I would appreciate comments from others utilizing social network tools for school/home communication. What have your schools tried? What was the response from both teachers and parents? What tips would you suggest in getting started?

And one last thought offered by a friend and colleague after my "I maybe be famous" post--"Now that you’ve Googled yourself you know what your “digital footprint” looks like. Most of our students, and probably lots of our staff, have not gotten this concept. What will it look like when someone Googles you? What will a prospective employer find? One of our former students is on my Facebook list, and recently he posted his status as follows: “The job hunt is not good. I’ve gotten one offer so far, but it sucks!” I had a report of one of our high school student’s MySpace page which had a picture of the student and parent both holding alcoholic beverages. I guess they think nobody’s looking or something – or they’re not thinking.

Now most kids will say, “Yeah, I’ll take all that stuff off before I start looking for a job.” Perhaps they haven’t heard of – that stuff doesn’t just go away.

Food for thought!"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Vocab Grabber Will Grab Your Attention!

As I've discussed in an earlier post, I have been exploring two RSS feeds--Bloglines and Google Reader. I have been pleased with the RSS feeds that I've set up so far. It is nice to view them in one online location (or in my case, two locations) as opposed to filling up my email box. Today I'm sharing vocabulary sites--one that impressed me and one that disappointed me.

I recently came across Vocab Grabber which is a free program developed from Visual Thesaurus, a site that I discussed in an earlier post. Vocab Grabber works a little differently than Visual Thesaurus which focuses on one word. In Vocab Grabber, you copy and paste a portion of text. It then sorts and creates a "word cloud" of the most frequently used words from that text. Vocab Grabber provides definitions of selected words in a side window and sorts the words into academic categories.

Free Technology for Teachers suggests a great time-saving use to install the Vocab Grabber bookmarklet (a drag and drop installation) which allows the user to generate a vocabulary list from any Internet page. For educational use, the site explains that Vocab Grabber "provides teachers with a way to quickly pick out which difficult words students may run into in a text. From the results Vocab Grabber provides you can then determine which words your students may need to study in a vocabulary lesson". I think Vocab Grabber offers a great visual display of words that will generate good student interest and involvement.

I also wanted to share a site I found earlier this year called Montage-a-Google that supposedly helps to develop flexible thinking by featuring visual images to accompany the multiple meanings of words.

Educational uses from TeachersFirst suggest using an interactive whiteboard with this site to "create a visual anticipatory set/activator for ANY term you plan to teach that day." It could be used to build background as you introduce new vocabulary before reading or in an art class to create their own drawing for words they think of. After your students master Montage-a-Google, you might want to try the reverse guessing game, Guess-the-Google.

My exploration of the site provided some interesting results but mostly disappointing ones. I did not find many "multiple meanings" with words I inserted and it did not pick up on slang words--ie "bread" simply resulted in photographs of various types of bread and did not include "money." And a cautionary note: the word "cash" provided photos of Johnny Cash in addition to one where he was using the finger. Not acceptable at my elementary site and probably not at many sites. Thus, as with any site or material, preview before use.

There are so many wonderful educational sites out there and it is difficult to remember every single one that you find. But I'm hoping that my search will offer a few worth checking out and remembering to use in the future.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I think I may be famous . . .

Don't laugh, but this is just beyond belief for me.

A friend emailed me as she is looking into applying for a library position in Texas and so I was sending her some sites I have used to develop my program. I forgot that I had Larry Bell's reading strategies on my web page so when I googled "Larry Bell"--was I surprised to see that my website page came up as a link.

So I wondered about my "Survivor OKLAHOMA" program. I have had many hits on my webpage for that as I presented it at Encyclo-Media in 2007--and I was the 6th listing under that search.

So now--very scary. I googled my name and found several listings but my school webpage was the 4th listing.

If you are interested to view my "Survivor OKLAHOMA" reference resources activity, here's the link to my school web page

Another exciting moment was receiving a comment from Kathy Schrock on this blog. Yes, I realize that it was probably a computer-generated response but still it was exciting for me .

So don't laugh, but I think that I may be famous. :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blog Sharing--Reflections on "Summer Vacation"

I'm taking advantage to share a blog from a teacher and her comments on "end of the school year" adjustments. Her comments reflect my thoughts almost exactly!! Do you ever experience "melt down" after the school year ends? Some type of emotional experience that takes a day or two (ok--maybe even a week!) to get yourself reconnected to having a life again?? Her blog addresses those experiences plus offers some suggestions to make the most of your vacation time so you can return to school feeling relaxed and ready to face the coming challenges of the new school year. So I'm taking advantage of a posting from Cool Cat Teacher on "School Daze" to share with you--hope you enjoy it as well!!

Vocabulary Resources & 25 Tools 2009

As I come across educational links, I'm always trying to think how my classroom teachers might utilize the resource--as well as myself. We are very fortunate as every classroom at my two schools is equipped with a SmartBoard. My media centers have a projector and whiteboard but I use an Airliner/Smart Tablet as my wall space didn't allow for easy reachable access for either students or myself. It has worked pretty well for my applications and PPT presentations with my information skill lessons.

Vocabulary is a big item in our testing criteria. A few years ago, I shared a site with my teachers called "Visual Thesaurus" (once free but for purchase now). Just recently I came across a very similar resource that is free called Visuwords I think that it would be a great resource for teachers to use as they introduce new vocabulary. Additionally it provides experience in reading graphic organizers.

Another free site to promote vocabulary is the Visual Dictionary Online which is based on images rather than words--it features more than 6,000 images with 15 major themes that span from Astronomy to Sports. The site features diagrams that label important parts of the item with a short definition provided as well.

Sometimes a helpful way to introduce new concepts or vocabulary is to compare it with a term the students already know. For a quick search with uncomplicated information, Diffen allows you to "compare, contrast and find the difference between any two things." I hope this might be a helpful resource for my first grade teachers when they discuss the concepts of "living" and "nonliving." If you request a search and come up without results, you can request a search article on your topics; however the site does not indicate how long until your request will be made available.

Back to my Web 2.0 quest:

Jane's E-Learning Pick of the Day has organized a list of 25 Tools: A Toolbox for Learning Professionals 2009 --many are free online resources and several include tutorials. Here's the link to the full directory which includes over 3,000 entries and where 3/4 of items are free

It does take time to locate and test some of these sites but it is so amazing what is available for free online!! I hope this blog helps to promote some of these sites to other librarians and educators--if I can use them, so can you!!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Of course, Kathy Schrock!

I was cleaning out my emailbox and found some emails from Kathy Schrock I'd saved to explore this summer. Of course, I need to include Kathy Schrock in my Web 2.0 quest!!!

I subscribe to Kathy's "Site of the School Days" (SOS) newsletter to receive her weekly postings of innovative technology This page lists all of the sites she shared this year plus archives of previous years. What a treasure house!!

Since Kathy shared Diigo in March 2009 #31, she has created this great organized listing of various 2.0 tools using Diigo (June 2009 #41).

This lady leaves me breathless!! I have very little time during the school year to explore many of her offerings and unfortunately many of her tools are beyond my understanding and use at this time! :/

Some of the tools I specifically want to explore are:

Site 6 easy-to-use, online concept mapping tool; great to use when introducing a topic and using an interactive whiteboard or in computer lab when students are starting a project

Site 23 My Webspiration, the useful mind-mapping tool, comes to the Web in an easy-to-use, collaborative version

Site 24 Slideshare easy-to-use site that allows you to upload your presentations, share them with others, and also creates a text-based "transcript" of the text on all of the slides; in addition, there are thousands of presentations to search for, preview, download, and edit for use with your class

Thank you for sharing your research and expertise, Kathy!!

23 Things & Twitter in Libraries

OK--I'm setting up RSS feeds today and came across Bloglines This was very easy to set up with no additional downloads and included several library blogs (including The Shifted Librarian and Librarians' Internet Index) to include in my subscription account.

However, I had also made an account with Google Reader and one feature I've found there is the ability to "star" certain blogs to go back to reread later. I think the "clipped file" feature on Blogsline is going to work about the same way. (Does Blogspot provide a "saved" feature? I haven't noticed it yet.)

For an example of something I want to save to reread later, I found a blog from Resource Shelf about an article featuring links and information on Twitter for Libraries (and Librarians) It cautions that Twitter is actually a conversation medium (of 140 characters!!); however using it as a broadcast mechanism may help open doors to use it as "Twitter holds great promise for libraries of all kinds, and your creativity will expand its utility. "

Now moving on to something I was very excited to stumble across!! The Librarian in Black has been posting blogs about a conference she attended and I became aware of 23 Things a tutorial program to help learn how to use Web 2.0 tools (technologies that students are using to put them in touch globally through social networking, wikis, video, podcasting, and gaming sites). So disregard the dates and prizes to notice the P.S. at the bottom of the blog--"PS: If you’re not a PLCMC staff member, you can follow along as well. Just use the list discovery items found on the 43Things website to record your progress. Alas I’m sorry that I can’t include any MP3 players or laptop as incentives. For you, I hope just the fun of following along is enough. :)."

I'm really excited to find this 23 Things tutorial as it organizes my Web 2.0 quest into an achievable project to focus on specific tools each week. I've already accomplished some of the exercises (ie "set up your own blog" and "set up a Bloglines RSS newsreader account" ) but I'm hopeful that some of the links will include additional resources and helpful tips.

Speaking of completing projects, I need to get my summer calendar in order as I hope to accomplish more than mastering Web 2.0 tools this summer!! August will be here before I know it!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Jumping in!!

Here I go!!! My friend, Dawn, is doing it and so I decided that I can do it, too. Do what?? I'm talking about blogging!!

Can you really teach old dogs new tricks? Well, I am trying to use the summer to explore and learn to use RSS, Twitter, FaceBook, and blogging more effectively. Yes, it's time I joined the world of Web 2.0!! I just don't have time during the school year to "play" with these online tools and thus have not pushed myself to learn to utilize them.

I have realized that phone texting is the easiest way to contact my twenty-something children--they tend to ignore voice mail and email. I'm hoping that I will get faster as I compose messages--and I now understand why teens tend to use abbreviations!! Acronyms and mnemonic devices never really helped me remember what they were intended to help me remember ( the order of the 9 planets MVEMJSUNP--My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas or My Velvet Eyes Make Johnny Stay Up Nights Proposing or now updated My Very Educated Mother Just Said Uh-oh No Pluto ) so this site of text abbreviations is now on my list HTH (Hope This Helps).

If you are interested to join me on this Web 2.0 quest, here are some links to information for using such tools and their possible application in school.

Are you a visual learner? Check these:

I hope to send you a "tweet" soon!!!