Monday, December 5, 2011

Alberta looks at the united states, does the opposite

Dangerously Irrelevant has an interesting article about the Alberta School System.  We know our school systems need improvement, but I think sometimes we forget to look at what is being successful in education before looking outside education for ideas to improve.

 A recent article inAlberta Views highlighted the differences between its system and America's, noting that the United States is an 'anti-model' for how to do school reform:
By contrast we can also learn what not to do from reform in the US, whose education system is in decline. Its elements, implemented over the past two decades, are largely ideological: "market-based" reforms (the application of "business insights" to the running of schools); an emphasis on standardization and narrowing of curriculum; extensive use of external standardized assessment; fostering choice and competition among schools, often with school vouchers; making judgements based on test data and closing "failing schools"; encouraging the growth of charter schools (which don't have teacher unions); "merit pay" and other incentives; faith that "technologically mediated instruction" will reduce costs; an overwhelming "top-down" approach which tells everyone what to do and holds them accountable for doing it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Is The Achievement Gap a Middle Class Issue

An interesting article about the fact that the achievement gap is becoming a middle class issue.

A recent study (PDF) by Sean Reardon of Stanford University finds that the achievement gap between the upper and middle classes is bigger than the gap between the middle class and the working poor. This should give pause to those who dismiss education reform as something that affects other people. If you're middle class, you're on the losing side of the achievement gap.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Free Children's Books

Free Technology for Teachers has found a great resource for free children's books that are great for use on your smartboard.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Interesting Post about Improving Teacher Education

I really valued my teacher education, but I know that it didn't prepare me for teaching as well as it could have.  Here is an interesting post over at Huffington Post to suggest ways to improve teacher education.  I still think the number one thing that education needs to do is attract higher quality candidates to education.

Monday, August 1, 2011

How to Write Objectives using Bloom's Taxonomy

Edgalaxy has a great chart to help you write Objectives using Bloom's Taxonomy.

My new team is going to be writing objects for every lesson, so I'm glad to have this to help us write meaningful and high level objectives.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Reasons for having a Classroom Blog

I've become a big fan of blogging in the past year as it makes it much easier to maintain a web prescience and update resources that most other content management systems out there.  I plan on using a classroom blog this year instead of a newsletter.  Here's a post from Free Technology for Teachers that I found timely, as the author talks about why teachers should have classroom blogs.

Here are my plans for my classroom blog:

1. Link to Weekly reading log form that I created using google docs.  This way, I can quickly compute how many minutes kids are reading, what they are reading, and can even ask a quick question like what genre they are reading or where they like reading to help get a better sense of how I can support their reading.  If it works, I might do a math type log as well, as I did Math logs once, and the students really enjoyed keeping track of the number of math problems they completed.

2. Current and Upcoming Events in the classroom.  This will hopefully replace the newsletter.  For those parents who need a hardcopy, I can just print out the pertinent newsletters once a day.  I'm really excited about the prospect of putting up pictures of student work, possibly using the ELMO in my classroom to help with that.

3.  Homework.  I can just post homework to this page so that there never is a question of what the students' homework is or if they forgot to bring it home what they should do.

4.  Rubrics.  I'd love to get to the point where I have rubrics for units of study up on the blog.

One thing I will need to do is figure out a service that will email people with updates to the blog, as that is the manner in which most parents receive their newsletters from teachers.  I also need to find out the policy on student work on the internet, and what I should do with student names and the such.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Update to Great Webtools for Teachers

Wordsmyth: a dictionary that includes a simpler dictionary with pictures for younger readers.
Lexipedia: a theasaraus with some interesting word maps

Here's the latest updates to Great Webtools for Teachers.  I might need to reorganize that post to make it easier now that it has over 25 links in it! 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Guide to Transforming Past Lessons to 21st Century Lessons

Here's a great guide from Michael Gorman that goes through ten steps to transforming past lessons for 21st century learners. There are some great ideas there, including:

"3. Incorporate at least two 21st century skills – You may wonder why I state two. First, I don’t think it will be difficult… and 21st century skills are so important to our student’s futures. You may actually find your project will incorporate a large number of these important skills. Second, in using two 21st century skills, you will be sure that one is measurable on a rubric. Research indicates that the three easiest 21st century skills to measure include critical thinking/problem solving, communication, and collaboration"

Ten Steps to Transforming Past Lessons for 21st Century Learners | 21 st Century Educational Technology and Learning

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Resources for Creating Thinking Maps

Listed below are resources for creating mind maps, thinking maps and outlines online. These are great in all stages of the learning process and can really help students use and develop higher order thinking skills.

Free Technology for Teachers: 7 Tools for Creating Mind Maps and Outlines Online

Monday, July 25, 2011

Best Resources for Information about Finland's Education System

Here's a listing of the Best resources for information about Finland's education System. As a part Finn myself, I find myself drawn to articles and information about the success this country has had with education.

Finland's high-quality, consistent education system eschews tests, reveres teachers - Boing Boing

Friday, July 22, 2011

Updates to Great Webtools for Teachers

25 Great Free technologies for Teachers and Students

This is a listing of 25 great free technologies for teachers to use from Edgalaxy. I added it to the list of Great Webtools for Teachers

Videos that Illustrate qualities of a great (language) learners

Larry Ferlazzo has a great post with videos that demonstrate qualities that four qualities of a great language learner. I think these also are great for any learner!

Here's the qualities that Larry Ferlazzo targets:

"An appetite for learning, perseverance

Being willing to take risks

Being willing to make mistakes and learn from them

Wants to help and teach others"

The Best Videos Illustrating Qualities Of A Successful Language Learner

Bad Teacher Education Is To Blame, NCTQ Study Concludes from Huffington Post

Interesting study that suggests that teacher education programs are not adequately preparing teachers to be successful teachers. Looking at my own experience, and those of new teachers I know, I would agree that you do not feel very prepared to be a teacher when you finish your student teaching. I also wonder if this is related to the high rates of teachers leaving the profession within 5 years.

Bad Teacher Education Is To Blame, NCTQ Study Concludes from Huffington Post.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Brown Sharpie: Mathematical Cartoons

Some of the cartoons are a little PG-13, but I think there are some that could be used as a quick comic to engage your students at the beginning of class.

Brown Sharpie by way of iLearn Technology.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Best Resources for Free eBooks

So, I happen to be a voracious reader, and I find myself constantly looking for ways to find free books and articles.  Here are some of the best places that I've found so far:

Project Gutenberg: The first place to look for out of copyright books.  It also has some more recent books, including books that are in the creative commons.  It focuses on putting books in ePub format for use with eBook readers.

Google Books: A great service from Google.  It's primarily has books to purchase, but it has a large collection of free books, mostly books that are not copyright.  You can find some really strange, unusual books, such as 16th century anatomy textbooks as boingboing suggests here.  Plus, there is a Google Book app for your iPad, iPhone and Android devices to read all the books you find on there.

As I find more resources, I'll post them.  Feel free to post you're favorites in the comments.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Free Companion Book to America The Story of Us

"History Channel is giving away copies of the America the Story of Us
companion book to teachers. To get your free copy (retail price
$29.99), you do have to pay $3.95 for shipping, call History's customer
service at 1-800-344-6336."

Heard about this from Free Technology for Teachers who heard about it from Jeff Naslund.  Very Cool!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


A great new website is tubechop which allows you to cut out the interesting parts of youtube videos and share them.  This could be great for teachers, as you won't have to sit through a 5 minute video to show kids how crayfish eat.  From The Innovative Educator

There's an app for that...

Sure, that phrase is way over used, but I like how this website organizes the 14 apps that they recommend for iPads.  Teachers at SLP who are getting iPads might want to take notice of these apps. 

The best apps that I saw on this site were Wix, a way to organize resources that you find in one place and Show Me, which allows anyone to create tutorials about a topic or concept. 

Free Activities for Learners with Severe or Profound Special Needs

Looks  like this might be a great list of switch activities for Sped Students.  Will be saving this link and looking it over if I have any students who might need this next year. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Keep Youtube Clean

Here's a way to keep youtube cleaner.  It's a browser extension for chrome, firefox and safari.  Allows you to search and view youtube videos without seeing ads, related videos or comments.  From Free Technology for Teachers.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The True Reason for Summer Break

I love my summer break, but I admit I believed that our summer break was a carry over from an agrarian society.  Instead, it appears that vacationing elites might have had a hand in it as wellFrom huffington post

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Great Way to Create Choose Your Own Adventure Videos

Free Technology For Teachers has a great post on how to create Choose Your Own Adventure Videos on Youtube. Looks like a fun way to engage students.

Create Choose Your Own Adventure Videos: "Earlier this week I was one of the instructors at the Ed Tech Teacher Teaching History With Technology workshop. Through one of the other instructors, Greg Kulowiec, I learned how to make videos that you upload to YouTube interactive. By using the spotlight annotation tool in the YouTube video editor you can insert into your videos a hyperlink to other videos or websites. By inserting multiple links into your videos you can create 'choose your own adventure' series of videos. Click here to see one of the videos that Greg's students created using the spotlight annotation tool."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Welcome to the Replacement!

Well, now that it's summer, and I'm no longer officially the 21st Century Technology TOSA for St. Louis Park Public Schools as I begin my adventure down to Nashville with my lovely wife, I figured it was time to restart these blogs.  So, since I'm no longer an employee for SLP, my 21st Century Technology Blog needed a new home.  And while I was at it, I thought it was time to restart and expand on my Culturally Relevant Education blog as well.  So welcome to the replacement!  And since it's a replacement (and I'm leaving Minneapolis) here's a classic Replacements song.  :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

10 Great Sites in Ten Minutes For Educators

Below you will find Ten Great Sites that educators could use to improve their teaching and engage students.

0. Garrison Sites: The inspiration for this list
  1. Prezi - presentation video creator
  2. Taggalaxy - great pictures from Flikr. Read our review!
  3. bridgeurl - create a slideshow of websites
  4. wordle - create word clouds
  5. jigsawplanet - create a puzzle out of a picture
  6. qwiki - uses wikipedia and pictures and graphics to create a short interactive video about a topic
  7. dabbleboard - easy way to make webs, doodles and graphic organizers
  8. caffein - free video chat with multiple people
  9. Thinkfinity - a great website with lots of lesson plans and ideas that integrate technology into teaching.
  10. Glogster - create posters and
  11. Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day - Amazing resource with tons of great links and resources
  12. SLPTECH Blog - My own website, with lots of resources for teachers.
  13. SLP 21st Century Technology Website - District website with lots of great resources for elementary teachers.
BridgeURL of Sites.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

5 Tips on getting Students Using the Smartboard or MOBI

“Your students are tired of watching their teacher use the smartboard.” - TIES Trainer

  1. If you expect most or every student to use the smartboard, keep the activity quick and easy. Instead of having students write with the MOBI or Smartboard, have them just move an object or make a mark.
  2. The first few times a student uses a MOBI or Smartboard, they will be very slow. Therefore, allow time for students to play and explore the smartboard during a time when you can help them, like indoor recess or morning work.
  3. Morning Sign in: Using the shapes toolin Smartboard Notebook, you can quickly create a shape with the students name on it. Then when they arrive in the morning, they can do their lunch count, make a graph, or even put their name in a Venn Diagram.
  4. Have your students use the smartboard or MOBI as a Center. After you have taught a lesson or activity with the whole class, you can begin assigning it as a center. At first, the rest of the class will be a bit distracted by this, but after a few days, it will become just one of the centers they will rotate to.
  5. During independent work time, have a few students write their answers on the smartboard or MOBI. This way, when everyone is done, you can go over together the answers together, and you don’t have to make your class wait while the student writes their answer on the board.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Update to Great School Websites

Enjoy an update to Great School Websites.

Springfield Township High School Libguide - Lots of great videos and links for podcasting, video making, mindmapping, wikis, blogs, and much more.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ways to use CPS student response clickers

This will hopefully provide teachers in SLP with a number of great ideas on how they could use their CPS clickers.
  1. Homework: Plug the answers to a couple homework questions into Fast Grade, and then engage a student managed mode as the students enter at the beginning of the day. You'll see who is doing their homework, and who is doing it right without having to grade the entire homework assignment. Do some of the questions non-numeric answers? Make some different multiple choice answers for that question.
  2. Matching worksheet: Got a worksheet that has students matching vocabulary from a wordbank with sentences? Just number the vocabulary in the wordbank, and then have the students put in numeric response for each sentence. For example, if they have a sentence that says "The coldest season." and "winter" is labelled 3, then they would enter "3" for their answer.
  3. Daily Math Practice: Plug in the answers to the daily math practice through Fast Grade, then as you go over the questions, engage a Teacher Managed Mode, have students enter their answers for each question, and go over questions that students seemed to struggle with. The best part? If you have assigned clickers to students, you'll have a record of what students struggled with what question, which will help you determine which students need support from volunteers and Title 1, or if you refer the student to Special Ed.
  4. MCA Test Practice: Have your students put in their answers for each question. Go over the questions that students got wrong.
  5. Formative Assessments: Have your students put their answers to a formative assessment into their CPS clickers, and then you can quickly determine what areas during the unit you will need to focus on. You can also use it to create flexible groups or to differentiate in your own classroom.
  6. Summative Assessments: Why spend your time grading, when you could spend your time analyzing your students achievement, and determining what areas you need to focus on. Work smarter, not harder!
  7. Math Workbook answers: As you walk around during Math work time, it might seem like most students are getting a problem right, but to know immediately, start a verbal mode test, and have students enter in their answer to a representative question. You don't even need to turn on your projector, as you just want a quick idea of how they are doing on the work. If a lot of people are struggling, you can either pull those students back to work with you, or stop independent work time and go back to working in a group.
  8. Student Feedback: Keep the students engaged by having them rate their fellow students as their present. One teacher is having students listen to make sure the students included at least 3 details about their topic. Just start a verbal mode for each student and make sure you keep notes of the order students went in.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Update to Best Links for Smartboards and Mobis

Just added to the Best Links for Smartboards and Mobis...

BBC - KS3 Bitesize Science: Interactive videos narrated by a pleasing British voice. Fantastic science, and very engaging!

Update to Best Links for Smartboards and Mobis

Just added to the Best Links for Smartboards and Mobis...

BBC - KS3 Bitesize Science: Interactive videos narrated by a pleasing British voice. Fantastic science, and very engaging!

Response to Why Gender Matters

Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences

By Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D.

Reading Response

As I was reading the last chapter “Beyond Pink and Blue” in Why Gender Matters a couple of quotes struck me. Some matched with my experience, while others I questioned. None-the-less, Dr. Sax has provided an excellent starting point to reflect on the past 30 years in gender identity.

Quote #1

"We need to recognize that our society lost something in the process of dismantling opportunities for boys to learn from adult men in an all-male setting" (238-239)

I think this is absolutely true. All one needs to do is look at the rate of adults achieving post-high school degrees. From 1959 to 2009 males 18-19 years old enrollment in college increased 3 fold. Not bad, but not great when you consider that female enrollment increased by 450%. Women now are enrolled in college at a ratio of 6 to every 5 male students.[1] This is but one statistical example of the economic and societal impact of “dismantling the opportunities for boys.”

Quote #2

"Those kids will learn how to solder copper wire to metal posts, but a genuine connection between the generations is less likely to be established" (239)

This quote felt too much of an opinion without any support. Looking through the footnotes and the paragraph around this quote, I could not find any support. Dr. Sax was referring to robotics class being co-ed, and that this reduced the connection that students will feel to the older generation. I just did not see how this statement could reasonably be arrived at from his prior statements.

Quote #3

The all-boys setting "frees up boys from typecasting and stereotyping of what it means to be a male." (243)

Dr. Sax is quoting Rick Melvoin, the head of the Belmont Hill School, an all-boys school. I think to my experience, which one should not draw any generalizations from, but does not necessary match up with this quote, although I say that with a caveat. I went to a co-ed school, but participated in a number of sports, which were all male. In those situations, it was even more masculine, almost a hyper masculinity. It was with females that I participated with the literary magazine and explored poetry, the arts and politics, topics that I did not broach with males on the sports teams. But perhaps this just reinforces what the quote is saying: in a all-boys setting, sports and the arts are on a more equal setting than in a co-ed setting. None-the-less, I consider myself very fortunate to have attended a co-ed school setting, as I don’t think I would have had as broad of friends or experiences in a all-boys school.

Quote #4

They found at coed schools, you don't need to ask a dozen questions to predict the girl's self esteem. You have to ask only one question: "Do you think you're pretty?" (245 - 246)

In 1993, researchers asked this very question at both co-ed and single-gender schools in Belfast, Northern Ireland. At single-gender schools, appearance was only one of many factors that went into self esteem. Not so at co-ed schools, where it was appearance that was the defining characteristic of a young woman’s self esteem.

Ultimately, this solitary quote should be enough move us to action in reexamining gender roles in schools and in society. If women have some many more opportunities in school, business and society, why does appearance remain such a crucial issue? And in the United States, most young women do not have the opportunity to attend an all-girl school until college. The women answering this survey were middle school, a crucial time period in their development. The feminist movement was among many other things, a movement to allow women to succeed on merit, and yet our female children are coming of age in a culture where they feel they must be attractive to be valued. And that, simply put, is wrong.

Sax,Leonard, M.D., Ph.D.. Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know About The Emerging Science of Sex Differences. New York City: Broadway Books, 2005.

[1] U.S. Census Bureau, Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division,
Education & Social Stratification Branch.

Updates to Great Webtools for Educators

Some websites that I'm going to add to Great Webtools for Educators...

Son of Citation Machine: quickly and easily create citation. create diagrams.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

An amazing writing lesson with ELL students

Another Lesson Combining Metacognition, Writing, Speaking, & Listening by Larry Ferlazzo

"This week, after showing students a model of a persuasive essay, we had them write a short paragraph about a time they had to persuade someone to do something. In their paragraph, we asked them to use some of the key vocabulary words we had been learning (persuade, convince, reason, support, facts, etc.). Unlike the time I wrote about it before, this week students had to do more than just fill-in-the-blanks — they had to full construct their own paragraph. It’s a dry run for a more extensive persuasive essay they’ll be writing. We also took photos of students writing their paragraph, which we uploaded.

You can see and hear Bee’s example here. You can listen to Bryan, Mai Pa, and Payia. You can listen to many more here on our class blog.

The day after students recorded their paragraphs, we listened to them in the classroom. On small pieces of paper, after each one minute passage was played, all students needed to write what they liked about the recording, or describe the picture it made them see in their mind, or make a connection by writing what it made them remember (reading strategies we use and which we are also applying to listening activities). A student would then collect them all and give them to the student who spoke. While that was going, we would give specific feedback to the student (we’ve been working on pronouncing clearly and reading with “feeling”)."

This sounds like an amazing writing lesson. I definitely plan to take this model and use it with my students when I'm back to teaching.

Links For Marzano's Research about Smartboards

As I work on developing a method to assess how successful smartboards have been for the students of SLP, I have been reading up on Marzano's research. Here are some interesting links I've found about his research:

The Man Himself: Research reports from Marzano's research laboratory.

Review by Jonathan Martin: Looks at the various components of Marzano's research.

Article about research: This article does a nice job of summarizing the findings of Marzano's research.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

I read this book over the past summer, and found myself discussing this book in my SEED class this month. While the book had little directly about education, it provides a lot of background knowledge of the experiences of asylum seekers.

On one level, you’ve got a book that puts a face on the struggles of asylum seekers. However, it might also make the struggles seem too big to solve. Here you have a country, Nigeria, that was supposedly peaceful, and yet you have some awful autrocracies occuring. Nigeria should be a country modernizing thanks to all oil, but instead that oil is leading to bloodshed and autrocracies.

Some might respond to this book by saying that the story is fictional and therefore some of scenes mentioned in the story are sensationalized. Some of the specific scenes might have been written to highlight certain aspects of each character, the situations in the story are all too real. Amnesty International has condemned the UK government for their detentions of asylum seekers. The violence in Nigeria is all too real.

As an educator, this book really encourages me to be more understanding of the asylum seekers in my own community. In Minnesota, we are fortunate to have large groups of Somalian and Hmong immigrants, many of whom immigrated to escape similar situations as that that little bee faced. When the families struggle to adapt to the American education system this book provides perspective on what all they have had to struggle with. They have decided to leave their home to provide a safe environment for their family. They very well might not have wanted to leave, but were forced to by the violence. It's up to me as an educator to make their school experience on that celebrates their cultural experiences while at the same time preparing them for their new life in the United States.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

MOBI Creative Use #2: Reading

A third grade teacher uses the MOBI frequently. One way that she uses the MOBI is to highlight passages as she reads it to students. She can show her students her thinking as she reads the piece. The multiple colors and ease of marking help her engage and connect with students.


Scan in the passage.

  1. Open up the file
  2. Open IW and click on the Pen
  3. Change pen colors to engage and instruct


  1. Find passages online, and use those, rather than scan the pages in.
  2. Print out copies of IW file to give to students who were absent
  3. Allow students to read a piece that have already read before to the class and show their thinking as they read it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tech Tidbit: Bridge URL

Do you have a bunch of websites you want to share with students (or staff)? Try Bridge URL. Give your set of links a title, then copy and paste all the links into the box on the page (make sure you include the http://) and then hit create link.

It'll put your links into a series of pages that your students can click through by clicking on the arrows on either side of their web browser screen. Basically, it turns your links into powerpoint slides. Just give your students the web address that bridge url comes up with and they are good to go!

Check out this example. Enjoy!

Friday, February 4, 2011

10 quick tips for the Mac OS X and MacBook

1. Screen Shots

Simply Press the command key - shift - 4 (you can see an image of which key the command key is to the left. It is located to the left and right of your spacebar). Once you hold these three keys, your mouse will turn into a +, which lets you know that you are ready to take a screen shot. Hold your mouse button down, and then select the area you want to take a picture of. It's that easy!

2. Spotlight

Ever have a hard time finding that application or file? Located in the top right of your screen is a little magnifying glass. This magnifying glass is a great tool to help you find anything on your computer. When you click on the magnifying glass, you get a search textbox. Type in the file or application you are looking for, and it will list below a top hit, a definition, applications, documents and other files that apply to your search. A great tool to quickly find that missing file!

3. System Preferences

This is a very important tool on any computer. On a Mac, it is located in the Apple Menu. The Apple menu is accessed by clicking on the apple in the top left corner of your screen. Then you select "system preferences". Here you can change the settings of your screen saver, display settings, exposes and spaces settings, and lots of other tools.

4. Program Preferences

Another important feature. Almost every program on a Mac has preferences that you can change. For example, in Safari, if you click on the word Safari on the menu bar, and then select preferences you will be able to set things such as popups, saving passwords and changing your home page.

5. control - mouse click

If you hold the control key and then click you will get a drop down menu of a variety of options that you can do to that icon or in that program. Try it on an icon on your dock, a link or a picture on a webpage. You can copy links, save images and change settings with just control - mouse click!

6. command - tab

Command-Tab and Command - tilde (~) allow you to quickly switch between programs (command - tab) and switch between windows in a program (command - tilde). The tilde is to the right

7. The fn key

The fn on the lower left of your MacBook keyboard allows you to access a variety of tools. Right now, when you press f11, your sound is lowered. If you press and hold the fn key, and then press the f11 key, it will hide all your windows you have open.

Here is a list of things the fn + f keys do:

fn + f9: See all of your open windows
fn + f10: See all of your open windows in the program you currently are in
fn + f11: Hide all windows
fn + f12: dashboard widget

8. adding icons to your dock

The dock is a great way to quickly launch applications. But when you first get your Mac you might not have very many applications on it. To put applications on your dock, there are two different ways to do it.

  1. The first is to open up the application. You can do this by going to the applications folder and double clicking on the application you want to open. Then control - mouse click (see tip #5 for more information on this) on the icon in your dock. A menu will pop up. Go to options and select "keep in dock". When you quit the application, the icon will remain on your dock!
  2. The second way is to just drag that application's icon from your applications folder onto the dock. When it is ready to be added onto your dock, the icons will separate and when you release the icon, it will remain in your dock!
You can also add folders to you dock! You can only do this on the part of the dock next to the trash can. You can see that it is separate part of the dock because there is a dashed line. This is a great place to put a short cut to your documents or downloads, and have quick access to those files.

9. managing files
  1. Use Two Finder Windows - If you have a finder window open, go to File --> New Finder Window and you now have two windows. You can drag and drop files between these two windows, helping you keep your files organized.
  2. Compressing files - If you need to send 2 or more files to a colleague, you can "zip" them. Simply select the files you want to send, control - mouse click (see #5 above) it will create a new zip folder that is smaller, and has all of your files in it.
  3. "Places" - In the left hand pane of a finder window, you will see a list of folders under "places". You can drag any folders to that location and they will be a quick shortcut to that folder.

10. Printing to PDF

If you have a file that you want lots of people to be able to read, but don't want them to edit, you can save it as a pdf. Simple go to file --> print and then when the print window pops up, click on the button in the lower left labeled pdf and choose "save as pdf". It's as easy as that!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Should we grade Parents? Not really

Huffington Post asks this question.

For me, I never think of a child from a challenging home life as needing that home life graded. I'm not sure what grading parents would do, nor how I would go about doing it as a teacher. And honestly, I've worked with very few parents, even ones that struggled to meet the needs of their child, that I couldn't find something that I thought they did well. So I think I couldn't support grading parents, as for too many parents, they are already wary to work with schools and teachers due to the parents own poor experiences in school. Worrying that they will be graded poorly will just increase their negative view of the school. While I think grades might make some parents more involved, for many, I think they will likely be turned off.

Florida Lawmaker Wants Teachers To Grade Parents

Monday, January 31, 2011

Teach like a Champion looks like a good book

From the Huffington Post...

"The first is Doug Lemov's 2010 debut, Teach Like a Champion, a groundbreaking, controversial catalogue of 49 techniques "that put students on the path to college." Based primarily on thousands of hours of video and in-person observations of teachers who have helped their students dramatically raise scores on standardized tests (a metric Lemov calls "necessary but not sufficient"), the book is the most concrete, specific, and immediately actionable set of recommendations I've ever encountered as an educator. Those recommendations are also, often, shockingly simple and unglamorous -- from standing still while giving students directions (Technique 28: "Entry Routine") to ensuring that all students begin each class period with their materials out, ready to learn (Technique 33: "On Your Mark")."

Really interesting book, and I love that it's based on video and in person observations, rather than some writers idea of what worked in their own classroom. Very good looking book, and I have it reserved from my library.

How to Really Teach Like a Champion

Delicious for Educators

Delicious is a social bookmarking website. Why would teachers want to use it?

1. It makes it really easy to share websites with colleagues
(A teacher at PSI asked for websites and resources for the lattice method of multiplication, so i created a tag on delicious called psi4 and sent her this link: Now anytime I add another bookmark with the tag psi4, it'll appear on that website)

2. You can find great learning websites on your home computer and easily share them with yourself at school

3. It can be easier to find websites for a educational topic than google or yahoo search

4. You can quickly and easily create a link to your delicious bookmarks for your students, no more messing around with rschool to put up links!

MOBI Creative Use #1: Spelling

A teacher an Aquila uses the MOBIs once a week to do a quick review of spelling.

Goal: Keep students engaged while reviewing spelling words.

Prep time: none


1. She connects the MOBI and opens up a new page in Interwrite Workspace
2. She hands the MOBI to a student. The rest of the students have their whiteboards from the HM Math Expressions program.
3. She says a spelling word. All students are expected to write it. The student with the mobi writes it on the MOBI.
4. The class compares their word to the word on the board.
5. The student makes corrections as necessary and passes the MOBI to the student sitting next to him or her.
6. The next student writes the word on another part of the screen.


1. Have students highlight (using the highlighter pen) parts of the word that are tricky
2. Have another student write another word related to the previous word (an antonym, synonym, homonym, capitonym, word family, root word, etc...)


If you have any other suggestions, add them in the comments below!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Great School and District Websites with Resources

Minot, ND Smartboard Lesson Wiki: Repository of Smartboard lessons based on Math Expressions and NWEA MAP math RIT bands.

NWEA MAP Reading Resources:A website from South Washington County linking to activities based on RIT Band on the NWEA.

Oswego: Great school website with flash games. Lots of math games.

Springfield, IL: Springfield's Technology Department website has a lot of information about the CPS clickers and MOBI systems.

Boston Public Schools OIIT - BPS's technology Department's website with some resources on the MOBI.

Wichita Public Schools - Smartboard Lessons

Woodlands Junior School - Links to great games, organized by math, literacy and science!

Springfield Township High School Libguide - Lots of great videos and links for podcasting, video making, mindmapping, wikis, blogs, and much more.

Center School District - Links to smartboard lessons created by Center, MO teachers.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Raising an Interracial Family

From the Huffington Post:

There are real struggles with being in an interracial family. This mother writes about some of her issues, and some suggestions for families dealing with the same issues.

Number one? "Do not underestimate your child's need to connect with and affirm their identity, especially as he or she begins to approach adulthood."

Great Advice, and something we teachers need to be aware of every day as well.

Christine A. Scheller: Education In Color: A White Mother Reflects on the Challenges of Raising an Interracial Family

Arts = Great Kids?

From an article by

"According to UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Sciences professor Dr. James Catterall, participation in the arts makes kids more likely to do well and do good, in school and into adulthood. The arts support children's development of empathy, increase their engagement in school, and teach the essential skills needed to be successful in a creative 21st Century workforce. In an interview with P.S. ARTS, a Los Angeles arts education nonprofit, Dr. Catterall puts it this way, "The arts, in opposition to what passes for school curriculum these days, brings personal values and beliefs into things we want to know about."

I know my collaborator Rachel Haen on this blog loves to see this kind of report. She knows that the arts improves students, she lives it. But it's nice to be validated by the research.

Arts Education = Safer Schools and More Prosperous Communities

Finns keep at it

from Will Richardson's blog:

"At any rate, from Robert Greco’s most excellent Delicious feed I snagged this link to “Oivallus-A Project on Future Education.” Here we have some Finns, already basking in all of their educational excellence glory, trying to figure out what teaching and learning are going to look like in a “networked economy.” (What a concept.) Not that there is anything earth shattering here, but the idea that Finnish Industries, the European Union, and The Finnish National Board of Education are seeking to “explore and outline progressive operating and learning environments” shows they’re not just resting on their laurels. And the outlines they’re sketching also show that they’re not just thinking about doing what they currently do better. They get that things are changing."

I'm a big proponent of studying what other countries are doing well. Very interesting that the Finnish National Board of Education is continuing to study how they can best meet the needs of students. Our education system can sometimes seem stuck in the 1950's or earlier. We were great then, but we can't just rely on the same system to continually churn out educated graduates when the world keeps changing.

Finns Keep Looking Forward

Great tale of a foster kid done good and the laws that protected him

A great tale from the Huffington Post by Daniel Heimpel: Staring at Superman:

"For 23-year-old former foster youth Sokhom Mao, a California law proved the lynchpin to his educational success and entrance into the workforce.

In 2004, Sokhom was a sophomore at Oakland High School in California. He and his five siblings had entered foster care when he was just a boy, after the death of his mother. After years spent in group homes, Sokhom had finally landed under the roof of family again, living with his aunt. But she was prone to fits of anger, a reminder of the abuse the entire family had endured at the hands of the Mao children's estranged father. So Sokhom and older brother Sokha moved to a transitional housing program in Hayward.

While the living arrangement was better, being in Hayward meant a new school district, putting Sokhom's ability to remain at Oakland High, a school he loved, into question. Fearful that he would have to change schools, Sokhom asked his residential social worker what he should do. 'She said, 'you know what Sokhom, they have got to let you stay there. There is a new law signed by the Governor and if the counselors say anything you tell them to call me,'' Sokhom recalls.


Senator Al Franken (D-MN) set out to fill this gap in 2009 when he authored the Fostering Success in Education Act, which would impose mandates on the Department of Education that mirror those already imposed on public child welfare administrations. Further, the law frees up federal Education dollars to create a cadre of liaisons charged with ensuring that children experiencing foster care receive all the educational benefits they are due."

With all the negativity surrounding education right now, it's great to see positive stories such as this, and to see my Senator pushing for a federal law to help foster kids in public education.

Blame Game

From the Huffington Post article by John Merrow: Blame the Teacher!

"I conclude that we need higher standards and a more challenging environment. Not a more 'rigorous' one, but a more challenging and interesting one. Unfortunately, and for reasons I don't understand, many powerful people are defining public education's problem as 'bad teachers.' That's simplistic and dangerous."

A number of people have been writing in the last couple of days about the need to reduce the amount of teacher bashing and most teacher bashing imply that teachers aren't providing rigorous environments. I like the idea of challenging environments. The subtle difference between challenging and rigorous is small, but important.

This is a pretty good article that goes into some of the ways to actually fix education instead of blaming the teachers.

What's the purpose of High Education?

Interesting article about higher education at MPR:Is higher education losing its meaning?

"A new book on higher education shows more than a third of college students showed no significant improvements in learning over four years of schooling, while 45 percent showed little statistical improvement in performance by their sophomore year. Are easy course loads and active social lives degrading higher education?"

I have a number of ideas that correspond to the lack of growth with college students, including some that were suggested above. I think though the expectation that college students will learn the material without good teaching is most at fault here. Colleges have traditional just relied of presenting the information, and expecting the student to synthesis and comprehend it. That will work for your self-motivated, top students. But most students will struggle, and be drawn to other pursuits during college.

Tech Sites and Blogs you should be reading

Larry Ferlazzo's Website of the Day: You should be looking through his website for great resources for education. He is a ESL teacher by trade, but his resources tend to be applicable to any grade.

FreeTech4Teachers: An interesting blog that has links to interesting videos and webtools that are very teacher friendly, and very useful. Thanks MizJ for the link!

Teacher Training Videos created by Russell Stannard: A resource of videos created to teach teachers how to use various programs and websites.

Best Links for Smartboards and Mobis

Make sure you check out the Great Links for Teachers for more great tools that are specifically for Smartboards and Mobis.

All Subjects:

Smart Exchange: Website created by Smarttech for teachers to share lessons and activities that they created for use with the smartboard.

Mr. B's List: Great resource for websites that can be used with the Smartboard. It includes ratings by users of Mr. B's List so you can have some idea if it's going to be decent or not.

Teq Smart: A website that has a large number of Smartboard files. Great tools, for example a trash can, fractions slider, and other interactives. Look under learning Objects for a lot of fun objects.


Starfall Calendar: Great Flash calendar that can be used to talk about the calendar and can be modified to fit with your classes important dates.


Storyline Online: About 18 stories including Polar Express and Stellaluna, that are read by Screen Actors Guild Members. Includes a video of the actor reading it, and activities to go along with the stories.


BBC - KS3 Bitesize Science: Interactive videos narrated by a pleasing British voice. Fantastic science, and very engaging!

BBC - KS2 Bitesize Science: This is the primary grade appropriate version of the BBC Bitesize website. Has reading material, quizes and an interactive game for a number of scientific topics.

Social Studies:


ANAYA: Interactive flash games in spanish in a variety of languages broken into 6 levels, that roughly correspond with grade level. Links to each grade level: 1º de E. Primaria 2º de E. Primaria 3º de E. Primaria 4º de E. Primaria 5º de E. Primaria 6º de E. Primaria

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tech Tidbit: Tab Sidebar for Firefox

When you start really using the internet, particularly websites, you quickly find yourself with multiple tabs in your web browser with sometimes cryptic names. It can be difficult to quickly discern which tab you want. Here is a sidebar add-ons for firefox (which you can install without administrator access). It puts the tabs on the side of your screen instead of on top, and it also includes thumbnails of the page, so you can see what the tab is before you go to it.

Also, if you want to quickly switch between tabs (even if you don't install the sidebar tabs), hit option-command-left/right arrow.

Hope this helps!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How to link to PDF's (or other files) on an rschool website

Here in St. Louis Park Public Schools, we use rschool. While it does a great job of standardizing websites, it makes it hard to directly link to websites. Here are the steps to create a link (thanks Julie!):

1st. Copy the link (you have to right click on a PC or control-click on a Mac)

Here's my link that I copied:


As you can tell, that is not a correct url link yet.

2nd. Delete everything after the first .pdf. In this link that means the apostrophe to the semi colon.

Here's what I deleted:


3rd. Delete everything up to the /school###. In this case it starts with javascript and ends with ..

Here's what I deleted:


4th. Now you need to add the server name to the beginning of the link.

Here's what you have to add:

5th. Now you've got a working link. Here's what mine looks like:

Try it!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Arne Duncan proposes that cuts to education can cut waste

Arne Duncan recently spoke to the American Enterprise Institute, and JD Hoyle at The Huffington Post had a reaction to it.

Here's a part of his post:

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan proposed that the impending school budget cuts be an opportunity to reform wasteful practices. One item Secretary Duncan listed was prescriptive seat time. He pointed out that defining education by how much time is spent learning instead of how much is learned has never made instructional sense. The idea represents a factory model that no longer applies to the modern world and has more to do with issues of accounting and custodial care.

It's interesting this idea of removing prescriptive seat time, which is something that our high school is working towards. I'd love to see more examples of schools going towards this. If anyone has any examples, feel free to post them in the comments below!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

What Can Schools Do to Promote Civil Dialogue?

From a post on Rick Hess straight up by Meira Levinson called What Can Schools Do to Promote Civil Dialogue?:

She asked the question:

"What role might--or must--schools play in helping young people develop and habitually enact these capacities? What would it take for kids to learn how to integrate empathy and discernment while engaging in meaningful, often partisan, civil political discourse and action?"

I think it's a really great question. Her answer was to teach more civics, and to teach it better. Absolutely. As a student fascinated by politics, it wasn't until 12th grade that I really took a course dedicated to civics. However, this is also a problem with how the school system is set up. We teach American History in up to 8 of our 12 grades. We need to move beyond calling a class American History and then expecting civics and debate to be a part of the curriculum. I think this comes down to the same issues that we grapple with in curriculum design all the time, that of do we teach content or do we teach concepts. I would say that civics tends to be a more concept based. However, many of our state standards are content based, and it's a lot easy to assess content than it is to assess concepts. And as education has shifted towards a more research and scientific basis for what is taught, we are moving away from what is hard to assess.

Appeals Court Upholds Use of Race in Texas Admissions

From the School Law Blog - Appeals Court Upholds Use of Race in Texas Admissions:

"In a case that has been watched closely in education and legal circles, a federal appeals court has upheld the consideration of race in undergraduate admissions to the University of Texas at Austin.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, on Tuesday upheld a program in which the university considers race as one factor for admission after Texas students from the top 10 percent of their high school classes claim places guaranteed by a state law."

Interesting ruling about race based acceptance programs at state colleges. Until colleges and universities look like the population as a whole, I think these sorts of programs have a place in admissions.

Is it a school's responsibility to promote diversity?

By the title of this blog, you might know where we fall on that question, but this post I read on reminded me of a conversations and comments I've heard recently.

First, the important bit of the post. (The first paragraph is from a story from the washington post)

"The new school board has won applause from parents who blame the old policy - which sought to avoid high-poverty, racially isolated schools - for an array of problems in the district and who say that promoting diversity is no longer a proper or necessary goal for public schools. (emphasis added)

I find that a bold statement. I personally believe that one mission of public schools is a civic one. We have public schools, in part, to produce good citizens. And I think that, particularly given the changing demographics of our nation, good citizens are those able to thrive in a diverse environment. So public school seems a logical place to address the growing segregation of our citizenry."

So, Anne O'Brien believes that public schools' mission is a civic one. I think ultimately that I agree with that. I was talking with Ann Jurewicz, an excellent teacher at the high school here in St. Louis Park, and she mentioned that people in the education debate begin thinking too much about how we are doing compared to the rest of the world rather than on how we can prepare well rounded human beings. I apologize to Ann if I didn't get that quite right, but that was the jist of it.

However, on the other side of it, is a statement I read recently that stated that people need to start viewing education as a economic service rather than a social service, because a social service can get cut, but an economic service is vital to the functioning of our economy. I think Anne O'Brien would agree with my colleague in saying that we must help to shape well-rounded human beings, which would include providing a diverse learning environment.

However, perhaps that statement I had read recently is right, and this washington post article is just another example of how when we make it a social issue, it can be cut, but if we argue it in economic terms it becomes harder to cut.

Perhaps we need to show that by learning in a diverse learning environment a student will earn more in their lifetime than a student who is a segregated learning environment. That's a big project, but perhaps that would convince some of our government officials who are less inclined to support social services.

Why Good Teachers Quit looks like a good book about an important topic

From a review at Education Policy Blog of the book Why good Teachers Quit by Katy Farber.

From the article:

"This book is something you can choose to sit down and read through, but the design makes it clear that there are other approaches you can take. After the various introductory materials, there are eight chapters, followed by a brief set of Final Thoughts by the author, a list of references, and an index. Each of the eight chapters focuses on a specific area that is a source of tension and possible disillusionment for teachers. In order, these are

1. Standardized Testing
2. Working Conditions in Today's Schools
3. Ever-Higher Expectations
4. Bureaucracy
5. Respect and Compensation
6. Parents
7. Administrators
8. School Boards"

This sounds like a great book that I haven't had the chance to read, and I am very concerned about how to attract and retain quality teachers. Go read the well written review!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tech Tidbit: Spotlight on Macs

Have you ever lost a file on your mac? You know you saved it on your mac somewhere but you can't remember where. Spotlight is your friend in this case. It is a great feature that allows you to search your entire mac. Can't remember where Quicktime Movie Player is located? Hit the Magnifying Glass in the upper right corner of your screen and type "quicktime" into the text box. As you type it'll find files that match the letters you have type.

You can even put in simple mathematical phrases like "300 + 567" and it will give you the answer.

Hope this helps!

Great Webtools for Teachers

Prezi - presentation video creator
Taggalaxy - great pictures from Flikr. Read our review!
bridgeurl - create a slideshow of websites
podbean - post podcasts for free
wikispaces - free wikispaces for educators. See our wikispace!
delicious - a online, social bookmarking site.
wordle - create word clouds
jigsawplanet - create a puzzle out of a picture
blogspot - great place to host a blog
glogster - create an interactive digital poster
storyboard - create stories (students can do this)
dabbleboard - easy way to make webs, doodles and graphic organizers
google posters - gives some shortcuts and hints on using google apps
qwiki - uses wikipedia and pictures and graphics to create a short interactive video about a topic
twitter - a great way to connect with other teachers and share and find ideas.
watchknow - place for people to find and share videos from throughout the internet
Simple English Wikipedia - Have you ever wished that there was a simple version of wikipedia for younger children? Here it is!
Thinkfinity - a great website with lots of lesson plans and ideas that integrate technology into teaching.
Son of Citation Machine: quickly and easily create citation. create diagrams. Turns the notes you take on the website into flashcards.
Wordsmyth: a dictionary that includes a simpler dictionary with pictures for younger readers.
Lexipedia: a theasaraus with some interesting word maps.

Other Sites With Great Resources:
25 Great Free technologies for Teachers and Students: From Edgalaxy, a list of 25 great free technologies.  

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ten Minute Tech Training: Intro to Skype

This video will teach you everything from the 10 minute tech trainings from last week on Skype.

Great Video on how to tell someone what they said is racist

It really focuses on the difference between calling someone out on what they said, rather than calling them out on what they are, i.e. a racist.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tech Tidbit: Twitter, an educators best friend

Twitter can be an educators best friend. Already, I've found countless great links to educational research, resources for ed tech and ideas for teaching. On top of that, I'm building a great collegial group that is able to help find answers and provides me with ideas. It takes some practice becoming good at twittering though, and I won't claim I'm an expert, but here are some good ideas (many taken from will richardson):

1. If it's a twitter account for professional reasons, use your real name. You want colleagues to be able to find you by your name, and you want to be recognized for the contributions you post to discussions. However, if you plan on doing this, it would be good to read this blog post about blogging for educators, and modify it for twitter. Basically, don't badmouth your district, and don't post anything you wouldn't want your boss to see.

2. Look at the people you're following. Who are they following? Whose posts do they retweet that you find interesting? Start following those people. In this way you'll build up a bunch of valuable tweeters (is that a word?) rather than just Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

3. As a corollary to number 2, if you are following someone whose posts you just keep skipping, stop following them.

4. The @ symbol followed by a screen name means you are "mentioning" that person. It's a great way to send a post to someone that you think might be interested in your post. The # symbol (hashtag) means that people who are following for example #edu will see your post. I find some great ideas and links this way. Here's some more information about #hashtags.

5. Use a link shrinker to post a long link, like It shrinks a url down to about 12 characters, which is important since twitter only allows 144 characters per post.

6. Some great hashtags to follow: #edu #edtech #edchat.

7. Follow me or nate at twitter!

Some more links about twitter:

here's a great intro into twitter.
here's a ten step guide to twitter for educators.