Wednesday, November 14, 2007

There's No Place Like Home!

Have you ever experienced that moment in the autumn when you REALLY know it is autumn? Remember the moment when all the oaks, maples and other colorful trees are shouting out in their brightly colored pageantry, and you want to sing with the natural world?

Well, today was that day for me, and I would like to share the experience. These pictures would be excellent to use for desktop backgrounds, teaching resources and other activities.

When I first noticed the streamers of autumn fire on the streets of my town, I drove all around to take pictures of public places and various scenes that would be recognizable, but not identifiable. I would recommend that process. I don't have to get permission from homeowners or people, so I try to get these types of pictures for:

* science lessons
* story starters
* history lessons
* recreation
* Geocaching
* interactive activities

There are other pictures in my picture cache. Please use them in your class, if you would like. I would appreciate it if you would cite my name if you use them online.

Enjoy this gorgeous autumn in Kansas! There is no place like home!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Better Schools and Classrooms

We all admire Better Schools and Classrooms. Why? For inspiration, confirmation and professional development because each of us wants a better school and classroom. We're teachers! We're achievers!

In pursuit of this excellent achievement, there is one book, Classroom Instruction that Works, that you can use and make Better Schools and Classrooms. Read it one day and use the ideas in your class with great success the very next day. Many of the ideas may be familiar, yet even the most experienced teacher should find this meta-analysis helpful for improved practice....for Better Schools and Classrooms.

Research in education has been vastly under reported in our American media, even the educational media. To remedy that, many educational research leaders began to perform a particular type of research called meta-analysis. While some research can summarize a single researcher's lifetime of accomplishments, such as Vygotsky, Art Costa or Howard Gardner, meta-analysis is compilation of combined research of many people on ONE TOPIC like the research that encompasses theEffective Schools Research or Classroom Instruction that Works.

While the Effective Schools meta-analyses is more of an umbrella covering a multitude of effective educational methods, categorized within the Seven Correlates of Effective Schools, Classroom Instruction that Works may be considered by some to be a specific category within the Effective Schools movement.

No matter the case, Robert Marzano et al picked an excellent topic and performed a very extensive meta-analysis of educational research that relates to this topic of Classroom Instruction that Works. One of the most appealing qualities of this meta-analysis is that one teacher doesn't have to practice all the instructional strategies to improve their classroom instruction. Each teacher can pick one or more of instructional methodologies that fit in their own toolbox.

Any teacher can improve their own skills by reading this research summary. Entire schools, districts or states can definitely increase student achievement by improving their skills in the practice of the tenets driven by the meta-analytic research of Classroom Instruction that Works.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

"Welcome to My Web!", Said the Spider to the Fly

When teachers find new technology, whether it is hardware or software, evaluation is critical. As a teacher, you want to determine efficacy. Is the new technology efficient, easy to use and accessible? One of my favorite tools in my efficacy evaluation toolbox is the KID TEST.

Here is how the KID TEST works. Put the device or software out where students, or any KID, will see it. See how long it takes them to tell you about it. The faster they find it, use it, and share the new technology the higher the KID TEST score.

As they tell you about it, the KID TEST rank can increase or decrease with their discussions of descriptions and uses the students discover. I always appreciate using the 5 point Leikert scale to document my technology evaluations, including the KID TEST.

Recently, I performed the KID TEST when I found two new widgets that a teaching colleague, Jonelle, was using on her Classroom 2.0 profile page. To me, they looked very unique, so I thought students might like to use them.

To find out if students will like them, I must perform the KID TEST. Before I start the KID TEST, I like to tryout the technology myself. I inserted the two widgets, Weather Pixies and VOKI, in my n2teaching blog. Both of these widgets are informative and interactive. Each has an avatar that you select. The avatar in Weather Pixie is dressed appropriately for the weather in your area in a little scene with the temperature, etc. The VOKI avatar's eyes track the movement of the mouse when it is the vicinity of the widget and it will talk when you click on the PLAY button. This is my public education oriented blog, and I often share information with students here.

To practice the KID TEST, I always use my kid as my practice tester. I placed my widgets online, and I waited. After a few days, my kid, Dena, asked me about one of them. I told her, and that was that. Interesting, appealing, but no immediate knowledge transfer. Probably a 3 on a 5 point Leikert Scale for the KID TEST.

A few days later, we were discussing various bits of code that she has used recently, while I posted a blog entry. When I scrolled down to check out my map widget, I passed over the VOKI widget. Dena asked, "What's that?". I replied, "That's the other widget I discovered on my colleague's profile page." I mentioned that the image I used was the closest I could find to fit me, and she said, "I like it."

We discussed the fine points of VOKI. Dena said, "You can type what you want it to say?" and "Can you use your own voice?", so I told her that both options were possible. She says, "Wow, I like it!"

Then Dena proceeds to tell me that she has been looking for a widget like this, but the only one she found was a talking widget service that costs $19.99 per month.

OK, I know an opportunity when I see one, so, while I was traveling to the VOKI website, I asked if she wanted to see the website. A enthusiastic yes, bumped up the VOKI tech evaluation score, so off we went to the website.

Dena was impressed with the great variability and opportunities to use VOKI.

Try it out, I give VOKI a 5 out of 5 on the initial KID TEST, and I hope you will see all the possible uses a teacher could have for this creatively cool widget.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Technology is Only A Tool!

My existence has changed greatly since access to new technology has improved over the past decades, but I often realize that we cannot lose sight of the real world. Our children must be exposed to the real world and activities that actually produce something that is not ephemeral. For their psychological well-being, they need to connect with the electromagnetism of Earth, and they need to create artifacts, including practical artifacts like food clothing and shelter.

I believe most of us know of the importance of keeping the real world in our thoughts, but we can become so busy using technology that we forget to put those thoughts into action.

I believe that most parents and teachers do not want our children to live in a world where they are helpless, but where they are self-reliant. That is why it is so important TO DO, TO MAKE, TO PRODUCE.

Now I am not suggesting that every child needs to know how to make soap, build a house or fix a motor; I am saying that every child needs to know how to perform small projects like: change the oil in your car, mend your clothes or grow some food.
It seems to me that the virtual has outstripped the real world lately.

I know children do like to do things, make things, and it is very important to provide them with tactile and kinesthetic experiences or they will become out of touch with humanity. Remember The Magic School Bus and Ms. Frizzle's famous line: "Take Chances! Get Messy!"

Periodically, I will highlight one type of real world skill that I know is being neglected, but I believe should be elevated. Today, it is the skill that can also be an art: SEWING!

Sewing is not being taught in the schools across America as much as it was in the past, and young people need all the self reliant skills they can get. This article may be an inspiration to any quilter or quilting guild to start a group for children and teenagers.

Even very young children can learn to handle a needle and thread, especially those plastic ones that are used in large cross stitch patterns, Children, around 8 or 9 can easily learn simple hand sewing, including embroidery. From this age on, responsible children can be supervised with complicated projects and using the sewing machine. Careful supervision is definitely required when rotary cutters are used, and gloves should be considered appropriate safety equipment when cutting.

"Robin Rice guesses the lost art of sewing skips a generation these days.
'I know my own girls. I’m trying to not let that happen,' she said.
She is passing on her knowledge of stitching to her daughters while teaching the craft of creative stitching at Danville Area Community College’s College for Kids program.
She works with three to five young sewers at a time, mostly girls, who are learning the basics this summer." excerpted from The Commercial-News, Danville, IL. "Kids Discover Creative Craft of Sewing", by Anna Herkamp.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Beautiful Posters and Materials for Easy Science

Every year, the Space Weather team at NASA sends out packets of posters, dvd's, lesson plans and other cool stuff to help you the teacher provide excellent, yet interesting lessons about the Sun-Earth relationship.

These materials are some of the most valuable and beautiful resources that I have ever received.

Check them out. I hope you will agree.
Sun-Earth Day 2008: Space Weather Around the World
2007 Desktop Wallpaper
Earth and Sun Tilted
2007 Desktop Wallpaper
Earth and Sun
The Setting of the Sun Over the Pacific Ocean and a Towering Thundercloud, July 21, 2003 As Seen From the International Space Station (Expedition 7);
  • 1600x1024 jpeg (right click, save as)

     blog it

    Teaching Friends Introduce Students to the Clipmark World!

    If a teacher could introduce one Web 2.0 tool to help students improve their research skills, I would suggest Clipmarks. I am also inserting part of a review fo Clipmarks by a fellow clipper, Neochonetes:
    Clipmarks adds value to your browsing, browsing, clipping and sharing experience. Being a bookmark and hotlist aficionado, I was curious about ClipMarks. I already had, but I was drawn to the added feature of clipping quotable material.

    I first added Clipmarks in early June, 2007 because it sounded like a great free tool for research. On the fly, I could copy snippets of the article I found important,as well as, properly quote and cite information for later use.

    ...[I]mmediately [I] could see the potential value for students researching a topic on the internet. When they found an article, they could clip it, store it online, and use it later for their research. I thought it would be especially helpful for teachers who ask students to find Current Event articles in their study area.

    What I didn't know was that Clipmarks is a very powerful add-on program. You can clip snippets, pictures and save them to your online file. Also, you can tag your article in or magnolia. Your comments, are yours, they belong to you, so you can use them later in your research. Another striking feature is the ability to send your clipmark to your blog(there are several) or get code to embed in blogs, like MySpace, that are not supported. There are a vast array of other extras available in Clipmarks that you will want to use.

    All your Clipmarks can be private, but by making your clips public, you have the added benefit of community. There is a community of "clippers" who can pop your clipmarks. The pop is a way to acknowledge your clip as interesting or important. They add your clip to their database...with credit to you. Also, people can comment on a public clip. Many times, clippers have led me to other similar articles.

    Clipmarks is a wonderful online tool, with a tiny icon(w/dropdown menu) and a great community that is more agile and responsive than Digg!

    You can lock in redundant bookmarking to, so I think everyone should add-on ClipMarks....

    Did I mention that I love Clipmarks, and I am reviewing it after using it for several months? Yeah! It's true.

    clipped from
    All Clippers
    sortMy Clippers

    Serendipitous discovery...
    surprise me!


    People all over the world clipping
    the best parts of web pages

    All Clippers
    Why I Use Clipmarks...
    "Clipmarks is an easy less time consuming way for me to organize news articles and web sites to share with friends and family." - sherrymac12

    My Clippers

    Pick your favorite
    clippers to find the best
    bits of the web for you

    Start Clipping

    Clip the best parts of web pages. Create your own searchable library of clips, Clip-to-Blog, Clip-to-Email and more...
     blog it

    Friday, November 2, 2007

    Ally Carter, Ag Economist to Full-Time Author

    Every high school and college librarian, Reading and English teacher should discover Ally Carter, if you are looking for good YA and adult novels for pleasurable reading.

    This is excerpted from the comments that I made to the NY Times bestselling author, Ally Carter (yes, I DO know her real name and occupation....) on her blog ally's diary.

    Last Spring, I had the pleasure of listening to your presentation for the Spring 2007 FCE Recognition Banquet in Girard, KS. I was very impressed, even though my preferred genre is Science Fiction, [your] story lines sounded interesting enough to read.

    Fast forward[ing] to the beginning of the school year in Erie, daughter brought home your first book, Cheating at Solitaire....[H]er 10th grade English teacher, Miss Olivia S., suggested that Dena would enjoy your writing. Hold on to your copy Miss S,'cause it's out of stock at B&N.

    She brought the book home, and I told her that I had heard you talk about your books, writing and other topics. She acted interested at least. LOL!

    Well, a few days went by, and I thought...another one bites the dust....she is sooooo picky! Trying to put a positive spin on the situation(and using my best motherly psychological weapons LOL)I asked her if she was finished reading Cheating at Solitaire. She shocked me by saying, "Almost, I've read about 2/3 it!"

    Before she took it back to school, I read Cheating at Solitaire, and I laughed quite a bit. It was a good read. So you have 2 new fans.

    My daughter read two of your books this fall. She says she likes Cheating at Solitaire best, but she enjoyed reading I'd tell you I love you, but then I'd have to kill you of The Gallagher Girl books.

    Keep up the good work. Have lots of fun working as a full-time author! WooHoo!

    Just heard Thursday, 11/1/07, at our Fall SEK FCE area meeting that you would be leaving your economist position. I guess you CAN keep a secret in SEK. LOL

    Cover image .jpg file taken from

    Thursday, November 1, 2007

    6 +1 Traits of Writing Still Rule

    Last night at TappedIN, I signed in to attend a Middle School prof development group, and our presenter was discussing writing and teaching writing.

    Ever on my toes, until I land on my face LOL, I discussed one of my favorite topics the 6 Traits of Writing. I will explain more, but there are some links on my site. For those in the choir, would you share a comment?

    On my way to a county-wide FCE meeting to learn more about possible lessons for the next year. This is one of my favorite meetings.