Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Google Earth Trips

Recently, a high school teacher asked me about helping her create a Google Lit Trip using Google Earth. Since I hadn't tried that before, I first started by creating a trip relating to my life and all the places I have lived. I won't bore you with that here! Then, I decided to try it out with my 5th grade son to see if he could use it on a project. Here is what he did...(Note: I used Jing to capture it off of the computer for the movie. Normally the file would just open in Google Earth.)

I see this as a great way to integrate geography and literature with a. Students could create a lit trip for a book they read, add images and a summary of the story.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Social Bookmarking Presentation

I'll be speaking to new staff in the next few days during Big 6 training, and put together a 20 minute presentation on Social Bookmarking. I like how the Google Presentation embeds right in the blog!

I'll be coming out to the buildings the week of November 17th to visit further about social bookmarking.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Reading at Edina High School

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of reading to 10th Grade Language Arts classes at Edina High School. Since they are all blogging, I decided to read a blog post that I thought would be of interest to them.
I chose a recent post by Doug "Blue Skunk" Johnson, titled Facebook-An Educational Resource? In the post, Doug explains his philosophy regarding blocking sites for student access and the things he will be sharing with principals in his district about social networking sites like Facebook.

I talked to the students a bit about our filter, and why we block sites like Youtube. Since our network sees a 10th grade student the same way it sees a 1st grader, and Youtube has content that may not be appropriate for 1st graders, it needs to be blocked. (I won't go into the question of whether Youtube has educationally appropriate content, or whether our network should be reconfigured to differentiate between 1st and 10th graders...)

After reading Doug's post, I asked them if they felt that access to Facebook would enhance their learning or be a distraction. Of the 180 students who I asked, 9 felt it would enhance their learning. They were also able to specifically give examples of how it would help, such as groups for each class, collaboration, one stop shopping (So they didn't have to also log in to Edline for assignments).

The remaining students either had no opinion, felt it would be a distraction, or didn't want teachers "spoiling their world".

In any event, it provided for some lively discussion!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I decided to put this blog through Wordle to see what I'm talking about the most here.

I guess it really is about the students!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

One to One Learning Leadership Institute: Session 6

Superintendent's Perspective
We finished with Stillwater superintendent, Keith R. Ryskoski , who began by sharing the "Beloit College Mindset", facts about the class of 2012.
He spoke about the analogy of a box, and how we limit our thinking by traditional things that define our "box". We need to think of all the possibilities, and be like the amoeba, constantly changing.
Other thoughts:
  • In 1907 if someone said we'd be traveling around on roads in machines that drove around, they'd have said you were crazy.
  • Are the children of today going to learn and do school the way that we did?
  • If you were starting this from scratch...Start at the middle school. Plan how you will grow.
  • If AP courses are College Board certified, and colleges are requiring students to have laptops, what would cause a High school teacher to say that students can't have a laptop in that course?
  • Laptop carts do not change teaching and learning in the classroom the way that one to one does.
  • A two week window for when you can sign up for a lab or a mobile cart defines the box and lowers authenticity. It's too much work to change the way you teach for 2 weeks, and then go back.
  • It's not a tool, it's how students learn and people are instructing today.
  • It's an information source that goes both ways at an individual personalized level.
  • Where are you going to make an investment that will have the biggest impact for students future, lower class size, or give kids a laptop? He advocates for the latter.
  • We never require teachers to use the technology, but this is what we do here.
  • Textbook replacement-As much as possible! Always up to date. Publishers are now allowing them to just buy the subscription.
  • Students entering school today are now like travellers at an airport. Powering down prior to entering the plane.
  • In the next ten years, the University of North Carolina will have more online graduates than face to face.
  • iTunes U is a great resource.
  • Look at the book Disrupting class!
  • In my mind, Smart Boards are great, but here, every kid has a smart board!
  • Teachers must embrace change in the role of teacher, and of students!
  • Must have parents/community members involved in the planning process. Split the work up regarding investigating different issues.
  • Publicize more rather than less on the front end.
  • Should have had a broader communication to the entire district.
  • Maximize training on curricular aspects that will make a difference.
  • You need to make the first experience very positive. Make it an event.
  • Equipment pick up, 100 people at a time in less than an hour. Celebrate it!
  • Let students personalize the computer case (Appropriately). Contest! Give kids ownership.
  • Don't worry about the kids using it...
  • Communicate how things are going.
  • Do lots of testing prior to system updates.
  • Involve staff in the image.
  • Get it to teachers first, looking at curriculum prior to students.
  • Planning for re-imaging: Do the kids really need to turn them in for the whole summer?
  • Connect teachers in like subject areas with teachers in programs that are using this effectively.
  • It's not about the laptop, it's about access to individualized tools for accessing and producing information.

The politics

Why was it political? We talked about it in 5 board meetings in August-November. Board wanted a 5 year commitment. Pioneer Press front page article had an impact. More people from outside the district came to the meeting rather than inside! All 3 board members who lost their seat said it was the right thing to do and they'd do it again, because it is good for kids. What matters is what the kids are doing.

Cost Benefit Analysis

Will be provided later.

One to One Learning Leadership Institute: Session 4

Panel Discussion
On Thursday morning, students and staff participated in a panel discussion on their experience with the one to one program. Here are their comments:
  • Everyone has a laptop, so there isn't the temptation to steal-Student
  • I have more problems with teachers losing laptops (500 staff have laptops in the district) than students.-District Tech Coordinator
  • We have a separate network for students who bring in laptops from home, that is locked down -District Tech Coordinator
  • I'm worried when I go to the high school over the ammount of note writing I will have to do.-Student
  • The laptop doesn't do everything for us...We still need to use our brains!
  • Genius program is used for flash card notes for memorization
  • We type more fluently, "10 Thumbs Typing" is on the computer, but no keyboarding course.
  • My dad tells me I know more about technology than the people at his work!-Student
  • Our parents ask us for help, even if it's Windows. (Mac District)-Student
  • Data within our school is that it doesn't matter what type of computer platform it is.-Principal

How did the veteran staff handle this change in pedagogy?

  • -It was a lot of work, but we went in with an open mind, because we knew it was going to be best for kids. We knew that we would get staff development. The big thing is we felt supported
  • -What an opportunity! At the time I was at the other school with desktop PC's and there was some push back on the platform. I was too excited about the possibilities...but to look at what we've been able to do and where we've been able to go, it's been great!
  • -We do a lot of informal staff development (Hey, stop by after school and I'll show you...)
  • The students teach us
  • We have many long time experienced teachers who are among our biggest users
  • If you're a good teacher who wants to do what's best for kids, you'll want to try this.

How has curriculum changed with this program?

  • I use a textbook, but it is just one of my resources, not the entire curriculum. I suppliment with Webquests and other projects.
  • One of my students found 5 different Web sites with 5 different birthdays for a founding father. What a great opportunity to talk about reliable sources.
  • It's nice as a special ed teacher to pull an assignment off, modify it and have it up for the kids right away
  • Our kids aren't just consumers of technology and learning, their producers. They are actively involved in producing, and as digital natives, it's a natural fit for them.
  • The Minnesota State Standards are Broad and specific... To find a textbook that addresses all of them is near impossible. By having the computers in the kids hands with access to multiple sources, we have the ability to hit more of the curriculum.

How are assessments delivered?

  • I still use paper and pencil
  • I use Quia online tests.
  • We team quite a bit.
  • All of one teacher's tests are on the computer, cause all the assignments are on as well.
  • I teach 350 kids, so having all quizes and tests online makes my life so much easier, and it gives kids immediate feedback. In my opinion, it's a much more superior system. I wouldn't use 100% online testing for Math, cause you want to see the work. I use Quizstar, which has some limitations. Quizstar let's you take the quiz multiple times and gives you your best score.
  • Foriegn Language teachers use Quia a lot, and students think it helps especially with special characters.


  • I have a good amount of homework, like last week we had a political convention. I did a lot of work at home, and since the text book was written in the 90's, it was outdated.
  • It varies with the different grades, but on the plus side, it is faster than writing in a notebook. I try to get my work done quickly so I can play something with my 5 year old sister.

Some staff do a bit of cross curricular projects, but mostly it is pared with like subject teachers.

The typing course on the computer helped me improve my touch typing. Others had keyboarding in elementary school.

Principal says that they don't emphasize keyboarding, and don't plan to. They can text faster than I can type!

Students do not have access to e-mail.

See here for an answer to question #2 on our wiki.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

One to One Learning Leadership Institute: Session 3

During the last break there were a few kids sitting by the front door and one had his Macbook open. I asked them if they thought that the laptop had improved their learning? Here are their comments:

Oh, yeah! I don't lose my papers
Definitely-Keeps me more organized.

I then asked them about battery life, as I used similar models in my former job and had issues with them. They said that if you came to school with it charged over night, then you were OK. They had learned to optimize battery life, by dimming the screen and turning off the wireless access when it is not needed.

Laptop Learning at OJHS

(See the principals presentation here)

Oak Land has 1020 students and 94 total staff members. 7% minority, and 11% qualify for free and reduced lunch.

They believe:

1. The only way to prepare kids is by something very close to this 1:1 program.

2. What was adequate for us is not adequate for our kids.
3. Schools need to mirror the world in which our kids will live.

  • Relevant Learning and Relevant Teaching

  • Anytime Anywhere access

  • Our World is a different place

  • Increased Student Achievement

  • All subjects become more meaningful for students and more adequately prepare them for the world in which they will live and work

  • Technology is part of our lives and it is here to stay

Teacher quote: "Give me 30 kids per class with laptops rather than 26 kids without."

They have no computer labs anymore, and the kids "take the library with them".

  • Leadership is critical. They have visited and established a relationship with Westside District in Omaha

  • Help Desk is critical

  • Problems must be viewed as creative opportunities

  • Staff Training is essential-The KEY to success

  • Student care and appropriate use has been exceptional (Theft is low because each student has one)

Laptops are only tools to use...

The principal's perspective:

  • Hiring process is different

  • Teacher observations are different (Intentional with relationships, common assessments, technology to enhance student achievement)

  • Staff Development (Balanced-Initially it was all tech all the time. Must have balance)

  • Extension of the School Day

How do we measure progress? (NCREL, Technology Advisory Task-Force, U of M Evaluation)

If your purpose is only to increase test scores, probably not a good idea. If you are trying to teach students how to collaborate in an authentic learning environment, then it's a great idea.

They went with Apple, because they offered training with the computers.

Tech Coordinators Perspective

Matt Howe spoke about his experience as tech coordinator at Oak Land. He shared a video produced by Stillwater High School Students on the changing role of technology

He shared some findings from the national demonstration sites for one to one:

  • Improved attitude toward school

  • Improved student work-specifically homework completion, higher quality and more creative

  • Improved opportunities to communicate through multi-media

  • Improved student engagement in their progress

The professional development they have offered includes:

  • Basic Skills-The machine is a tool for teachers to use to make instruction better

  • Tech Integration and Enhancement

  • Lesson Makeovers

  • Classroom Management and Productivity

  • Using Online tools and resources

  • Project based learning

  • Initially Apple did training w/ pull outs and even weekends

  • Ongoing training

  • Peer mentorship

  • Learning Communities

  • Student Help (ICE)

  • Just in Time Training

Help Desk

Daily Operation



They have many resources for parents and also offer a Parent Boot Camp to train parents every fall. Internet Safety is included in this training.

Student Planner is a PHP portal tool for students, similar to Edline.

EasyGrade Pro is the staff grade book, and they use TIES SIS.

To those who want to just fix/upgrade the equipment we have now there is this quote to consider:

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.”
-Wayne Gretzky

One to One Learning Leadership Institute: Session 2

In this session, Oak-Land teachers presented on How Technology Changes Teaching and Learning.

Prior to that, there was discussion about staff development, and how implementation is happening. In South Dakota, they gave core staff tablet PC's a few years ago, and have phased in to everyone. Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau had a tech academy this summer, and also uses Atomic Learning. They admitted that some lessons are not suited to tech integration, and that's ok!
The Apple Learning Interchange has resources for staff on specific subject areas, and the new Thinkfinity (Formerly Marco Polo) has a lot of resources for integration with one to one.

Oakland's principal mentioned that he is working with staff during observations this year on how they will teach differently with one to one.

Laptops in the English 8 Classroom
Jesse Fredrickson, who teaches both regular and honors english at the 8th grade level spoke about her experience.
She started by telling us how laptops have changed her teaching:

  • No more "automatic pilot", she's a much more creative teacher
  • She can quickly modify, add or delete assignments, responding to the needs of the students
  • Differentiating instruction is much easier (Electronically alter assignments and quickly distribute to students)
  • Instructional time is much more effectively (No collecting and distributing papers, posting instructional video clips, rather than show in class)
  • Grading is faster! (For daily assignments, they utilize "The planner", which makes it easy to add comments and provide feedback)

She has seen changes in students as well:

  • Students are more organized. Less lost assignments
  • Students have more pride in their work when they know it will be published, they spend more time with the English content.
  • Higher order thinking skills happen naturally and frequently. What type of project will they create? Which Art? What audience?
  • Changes assignments from something they "have" to do, to something they "get" to do!

In the English classroom:

  • Online Textbook with classroom copies (One time online license purchased with the classroom set)
  • Online notebook (Comes w/Text) All accessed from student planner
  • Students without Internet access at home can check out a classroom text.
  • Tech Coordinator said online texts get updated more often.
  • Grammar: Individualized assignments and authentic practice
  • Literature: seeking out information about authors, topics, etc.
  • Public speaking
  • Pre-writing: Inspiration
  • Revising/Editing: The difference is amazing!
  • Publishing: book reports were written on the teacher blog, quality of writing improved
  • Student Web sites
  • Teacher's site includes exemplary student work and ideas

What about books?

  • They don't go away if kids have laptops

Classroom management

Very few management issues. Most of the time when lids are up, they are on task. Teachers do not have remote desktop or Syncronize, she feels that she has become more accountable with student behavior.

Seventh Grade Life Science

Todd Rau, a seventeen year veteran, shared his experience in his 7th Grade Life Science classroom.

He feels that his job is to create well rounded students who will be prepared for the 21st Century. Students need:

  • The Ability to efficiently use technology
  • Communication skills-The ability to make a point visually and verbally
  • Guide on the side as opposed to sage on the stage
  • Self starters-Drive to go beyond the minimum
  • Real World Application
  • Cross Curricular/ Multi-disciplinary

One of his projects is to have students compete for grant money for solving problems in the National Parks.

Another project challenges students to create a digital brochure on topics involving genetic engineering.

A third project involves the students creating a podcast on a topic from a plant's perspective.

He still has students who just want to "get it done", but not as many...

It's a great tool, and if you use it well, the kids will flourish, but if you rely on it... they'll stagnate.


Robin Vought shared her experience with her band students using Smartmusic and GarageBand on her laptop. She has been involved in the one-to-one program from day one, and has had great success.

Technology is a part of their future, and they focussed on how the technology could be used to help students achieve at higher levels in music.

She uses Smart Music as a warm up, the Internet for research on composers, Keynote, iPhoto and iMovie, for presentations, and iTunes to create a library of recordings that are used in class for demonstrations. She also uses Finale and Finale notepad, which are music industry standards.

She has found that the laptop has extended the student day, by giving students the metronome and tuner tools, the same way they do it in class. Students can do scale and rhythm excersizes and solo accompaniments at home, and are learning the rhythm's correctly.

She collaborates with the Literature teacher on the poetry of music for a group project. She feels that project based learning has had a great impact on forging connections for her students.

She said this has increased student achievement greatly in her discipline, but she admits there have been challenges.

Up front, it takes time looking for resources that will apply. Don't add on the computers to what you're doing: embed.

The Help Desk is the key!

She said that kids are taking responsibility for their learning, and she doesn't hear "Why do we have to know this?" as often.

One to One Learning Leadership Institute: Session 1

October 8 and 9 I attended a 1-to-1 Learning Leadership Institute at Oak Land Junior High in Stillwater.
Oakland has had a one to one initiative for the last 5 years.
(Twitter blocked on the filter, but Facebook not!)
There were folks attending from Warroad (Looking at 6th-8th Grade), Harrisburg, South Dakota (Building a new high school designed with one to one in mind-this year all staff have laptops), Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau, Wisconsin (Building a new middle school, and looking at best options), and Jim Hawthorne and I from Edina ("Go Wireless" CoP) .

21st Century Learning and Learning Tools
Paul Musegades from Apple started things off discussing five challenges:Global Competition, Global Interdependence, Workplace Innovation, Ubiquitous Information and Student Experience.
He noted that skilled worker growth in Japan is 25 million, whereas in China, it's 300 million! We are both competing with them and are interdependent with them!
Ubiquitous information-"Google" is a verb. It's now just a part of our life, and our students have grown up with it.
Einstein-" Never memorize what you can look up in books"

As we look at education in the 21st century, we need to take these things into account. What majors will todays middle and high school students be taking?
How different are today's classrooms from how they were 40 years ago?
Digital content is growing exponentially-There are 6 billion plus photos on Facebook!
The demand for skills have changed.
Critical thinking, information technology, health and wellness, collaboration innovation and personal financial responsibility are quickly becoming the most important skills in the workforce.
He then showed the 21st Century Skills Framework, which we used as the basis for the 21st Century Literacy course in Edina.
Our learning environment must be innovative, where we create, distribute, access and collaborate with information.
Musegades demonstrated how iTunes U now gives schools the ability to organize lectures for access via podcasts, and video lectures.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Educational Vodcasting

Today I watched a Webinar from ISTE on Vodcasting in Education.
In it, two teachers from Colorado shared how they transformed their AP Chemistry class, by transforming all their lectures into Vodcasts, and use classtime for homework and hands on activities where the students can get expert help.

This year, they moved to a mastery program, where students are self paced, and they have seen tremendous success. Students enjoy the ability to go at their own pace, and
Students are owning their learning, and they've seen all students pass assessments with 85% mastery!
There have been some management issues, but overall, they've had great success.
In the future, they hope to beam video to cell phones via Bluetooth, post to blogs, and embed in Moodle or Blackboard.
To create their Vodcasts, they use the following:
  • Software
  • Snapkast-Converts to PPT and allows upload of audio, and then converts to mp4.
  • Camtasia- To capture video and animation and add voiceovers
  • Snapzpro
  • Promethean
  • Jing
  • Windows Media Encoder
  • Podcast Producer (On 10.5 Macs-Needs a server)-Stanford uses this
  • Microphones
  • Tablet
  • Propagation Method-itunes, Burn DVD, Flash Drives

Their site is :

They contended that the time it took students to listen to the lecture at home was comperable to time completing homework, and that for them, the lectures were shorter, as they did not have to answer questions while recording.

I expected this session to be more nuts and bolts about vodcasting, but came away with an interesting idea delivery of intstruction!