Thursday, September 29, 2011

One Scoop or Two?

Building your own "sundae" of information is as delicious as a double scoop of chocolate ice cream with whipped cream and a cherry on top! Scoop.It is the banana split of bookmarking when browsing the web because you get to choose and garnish an information "sundae" with content you find deliciously interesting.  You can share your scoops of information with a community of readers on various social media, and on Scoop.It.

Here’s how you scoop your way to a delicious "sundae" of information! 
1.) Pick a title for your topic, e.g., Tech Tools To Improve Parent Communication”
2.) Enter a brief, but engaging description of the type of content your scoop will contain e.g.,   
3.) Identify the language the content will be in: English
4.) Enter keywords to describe your topic: parent communication, parent contact, etc.
5.) Upload an icon to represent your scoop if you’d like.

Then, watch the magic happen! scans the web to scoop up any relevant content related to your topic. Like an ice cream bar with unlimited toppings, presents you with content choices to add to your information sundae. You decide to add or discard the content depending on its relevancy and interest.  You can also decide on sources to locate your content. Adding a bookmarklet to your browser also makes it easy to scoop up content whenever you're browsing and come across content worth adding.

Once you have scooped up content for your information sundae, you can share your scoops on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Wordpress and Tumblr, join a community of scoopers, follow their scoops or be followed.  Scoop.It is still in the beta stage, so I hope they will sweeten up to the idea of adding Blogger to their sharing options. However, you can add a sweet widget of your scoops to your website or blog! 

Students, teachers and parents are in for a real treat with Scoop.It because it’s a delicious way to organize content and taste each scoop of information one at a time to meet so many instructional purposes and needs.  

Different reasons for creating your own Scoop.Its:
  • Disseminates information such as important articles, videos, links, and other content to parents, colleagues, and students
  • Organizes resources for group projects for struggling students to save time and help students see various content that reveals a topic's focus or theme.
  • Facilitates students' research efforts for projects. As they research a topic, students can scoop their sources and submit their page to the teacher as their lists of works cited. 
  • Supports reading instruction. Students can work individually, in pairs or small groups reading content the teacher has pre-selected and saved on Students can analyze the differences in the text structure of each selection featured in the page; they can set a purpose for reading each selection; identify key or difficult vocabulary in each selection; summarize each selection, and find connections among all of the selections on the Scoop.It page.  
Here’s a double scoop I created. I will be adding the Scoop.It widget to my blog, so you can always see new content I’ve scooped up, or you can get a taste on my Twitter page, Facebook, or by following my scoops on Scoop.It itself.    

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

We're Lucky To Have Tech, But Are We Any Wiser?

In the age before tech tools, a.k.a. the analog world, teachers had to find creative ways to engage students with difficult texts or concepts, and help them transition to more challenging reads and ideas, but it wasn’t always easy or even achievable in 180 days! And, naturally some teachers were better at it than others. Now that we’re lucky enough to have tech in schools, are we any wiser? What’s changed in terms of how we use our resources? How are we using tech tools effectively to motivate reluctant learners and help them make the necessary transitions to become literate, educated adults? 

If students reach the fourth grade without strong math or reading skills, how many of these students overcome their deficiencies in middle school, high school or even adulthood? How are we truly using tech tools as interventions to stop the cycle of illiteracy and aliteracy?  

Today’s tech tools proclaim to boost critical thinking and combat all types of illiteracy, and I believe they can...someday in the near future, not just yet! I visited a Title I school recently where thousands of dollars had been spent on lap top carts, yet no one had bought the software for the lap tops. How effective was that decision to buy the hardware without the software? How long will the lap top carts sit in a closet before students and teachers can take advantage of them? Like this school, not all of our nation’s schools have caught up and established the infrastructure needed to support complete tech integration, and in those schools that have, we need to ask if the tech is being used wisely to teach critical thinking. 

With good reason, there’s been a lot of buzz about the September 3rd, 2011 New York Times article revealing the stagnant test scores of the Kyrene School district of Arizona. Many pro tech educators, including me, claim these statistics don’t tell the full story. However, what is the real story? I am a firm believer that learning how to critically think, without ever teaching to a test, increases a student’s chances of scoring high on standardized tests. Of course, for some students, it’s just not that simple; there will be other factors that affect their test performance. But, on the whole, if there is an entire school who has been using tech wisely and meaningfully for several years, statistically wouldn’t the scores tend to be higher? So, the questions remain: With tech tools as support, what critical thinking skills do students need to learn from year to year, and how are all subject area teachers across grade levels working in vertical teams to achieve “digital” continuity from kindergarten to high school? How are teachers building on the tech and critical thinking skills students mastered in previous years? We need to reflect on our curriculum goals that integrate tech and identify exactly how these goals help students develop critical thinking, study habits, and mastery of concepts to progress to more rigorous thinking levels. 
However, if schools have struggled to achieve this continuity and consistency to build vertical teams and meet benchmarks when we first began to use pen, paper and books, what are we going to do differently now that we have tech?  Have we grown wiser? These are questions  I think we must continually ask:
  • How are we using specific tech tools to effectively address illiteracy and aliteracy?
  • How does my school or my district’s vertical team create continuity, consistency and increase rigor year to year? What conditions create successful tech integration?
  • How are we using specific tech tools to effectively teach critical thinking year to year?
  • How are we using tech tools to engage and build autonomy?
  • How are we using tech tools to help reluctant learners transition from less challenging work to more rigorous academic levels?
  • How has tech integration lead to increased academic achievement? 
  • What specific tasks and roles are we assigning reluctant readers and writers when we use tech tools in the classroom? How we are we using tech tools to help build these students’ skills so that they can have an active role in our classrooms, and become independent learners?  
Tech in education remains undiscovered country for many schools, and our students exist as digital natives held back by an analog world. Many of our nation’s teachers remain afraid to abandon the analog world. The sooner we begin to coordinate our efforts, the wiser and luckier we will be.   

Please check my webdoc and share your thoughts! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lists 3 and 4-Tech Terms All Teachers Should Know!

How many tech terms did you know by heart from List One and Two? Test your "Tech Jargon" with Lists Three and Four, and share the lists with those teachers who want to improve their tech knowledge!
Once again, I used to create List Three and Four to maintain consistency with the way the lists look and can be accessed.  What vocabulary tech tools do you know about? Let's chat to compare teaching experiences with these tools.

Click on the link to see List Three and Four or email or tweet me at, and @trendingteacher, and I'll send you lists directly.

Wordle: Tech Terms Every Teacher Should Know
Wordle Lists Three and Four

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fuzzynyms: The Lexicon of Learning Connotation Using Lexipedia!

Regardless of the grade or subject, all teachers teach vocabulary, but how often do students struggle with learning the lexicon of a particular subject or with just understanding what words to use to express themselves more precisely and succinctly in speech and writing.

All of the vocabulary web tools I will be sharing in the next couple of posts support different aspects of vocabulary instruction. 

While offers digital flashcards, and practice games and quizzes, provides color coded word webs connecting the word to its definition(s), part(s) of speech, synonym(s), antonym(s), and its fuzzynym(s) or word slightly related in meaning. This concept of Fuzzynym can be difficult for students to understand. However, fuzzynyms, (I guess a word coined by Lexipedia) are an important lexical component of vocabulary building so students learn the connotation or nuance words carry. When I teach vocabulary, I not only teach the basics, but I also teach the positive, negative or neutral effect of words. Students benefit from learning these so called fuzzynyms so they can learn about the importance of semantics (meaning), and how meaning can change drastically for better or worse if a writer or speaker carelessly chooses his/her words. Mean what you say, but say what you mean by choosing your words carefully is what I tell my students!

When students learn about the connotation of words by analyzing written and non-written texts, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me", takes on an entirely different meaning. Students begin to realize the power words have to suggest, influence, and persuade us, and they become more conscious about their own word choices. 

In our world of 140 characters or less, understanding the connotation of words through Lexipedia's "fuzzynyms" offers a way for students to discover the importance of semantics and the power of our words to express and grasp meaning.  

List 2-Tech Terms All Teachers Should Know

Are you ready for List Two of Tech Terms All Teachers Should Know? Well, ready or not here it is! Quiz is forthcoming!

My next post will feature one more tech tool that supports vocabulary instruction. I have used again to create List Two to maintain consistency with the way the lists look and can be accessed, but this other tech tool I'll be writing about, Lexipedia, has some pretty neat features as well.

I would love to hear from anyone who has used different vocabulary tech tools to compare teaching experiences with these tools.

Click on the link to see List Two or email or tweet me at, and @trendingteacher, and I'll send you lists directly.
Wordle: Tech Terms All Teachers Should Know-List Two
Wordle of List 2:Tech Terms All Teachers Should Know

Friday, September 23, 2011

Do You Speak-a My Language? Tech Terms All Teachers Should Know-List One Using Wordstash & Wordle

In my last post I used the word “friended”.  After posting it, I thought what if some readers think I’ve made a huge grammatical blunder using “friend” as a verb. But then I thought, my readers don’t live under a rock. They must have heard this new techie vernacular. Which got me to thinking there’s so much tech talk out there, it’s difficult to keep up with it all.

So I decided why not create a sort of tech vocabulary for dummies. Well, not for know what I mean...but for those of who aren’t afraid to use tech, but don’t always know what all the terms mean...we kind of smile and nod around the "super techies" pretending we know. 

Here are three posts in one! First, I’ve used to create a Tech Vocabulary List of “Tech Terms All Teachers Should Know”.’s features make learning vocabulary incredibly efficient! You create a list of words adding them one at a time. gives you the part of speech and definition. Some of the newer tech terms did not have a definition so I had to add it myself. But that’s the beauty of word stash, you can add your own definition if you want, and add an image from Wikipedia or Flicker for a visual cue. saves all the words entered to generate a list that you name. You revisit your lists to study by using’s quizzes and games, and mark the words you’ve mastered, and the ones where you need extra practice. let’s you say: “Adios flashcards!”, on the other hand, let’s you add lists of words and creates a beautiful word cloud. You decide the layout of the words by choosing the font and color. Check out the I created for “Tech Terms All Teachers Should Know” can be used as a digital word wall, a visual reminder of words studied, and a reminder of how to spell the words.
                                                    let’s you say: 
“Good riddance word wall bulletin boards that take time and money to design!”  
This will be List One of “Tech Terms All Teachers Should Know”, and I will add more tech terms using other tech tools so we can continue to build our tech vocabulary and learn about other tech tools that support vocabulary instruction. allows sharing of wordlists through Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon and or email. If you are unable to open the link, email me at so I can email you the list! Or, follow me on Twitter or Facebook, and I'll tweet or Facebook the list!  Check out List one!

Wordle: Tech Terms All Teacher Should Know

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Have You Friended TED?

If you haven’t met TED, TED is waiting to inspire you and your students! TED is a non-profit organization first created to spread ideas about Technology, Entertainment and Design; however, since it’s inception in 1984, TED has expanded to spreading ideas online about so much more through TED Talks. Our technology has made TED Talks easily accessible anytime, anywhere on the web.  TED Talks feature short presentations of leading experts in all fields of study. From celebrities, scientists, writers, to directors, magicians, heads of state, and Noble Prize winners, TED Talks are profoundly moving and thought provoking. TED presenters promise to keep you and your students engaged because presentations are no longer than 20 minutes long! No snoozing or mind wandering with TED, promise! 
How can you use TED Talks in the classroom?
TED has over 900 different talks exploring all aspects of life and the human condition. Speakers explore topics we can all connect with, and in 20 minutes or less, we leave feeling smarter and more aware of our world and ourselves.  
Imagine if you could create your own TED Talks in your elementary, middle or high school classroom. After reading a novel, or non fiction piece, students could explore one or more of its themes; research the theme in more depth using primary sources for support of the theme, and then write a moving speech to deliver as a TED Talk. What about writing and delivering a TED Talk as a character from a short story, or the speaker of a poem?  In science, students could explore the moral implications of cloning, or in history class explore patterns of human behavior to determine if we truly do fail to learn from our mistakes. In math, students could offer TED Talks to explain mathematical applications in life. These are obviously just a few ideas off the top of my head, but if teachers of all subjects brainstormed ideas with their students of possible TED Talks, I’m sure the topics would be worth a listen.  Kids want to talk and express their views, opinions and perspectives of the adult world. It's in every human being's nature to seek knowledge. Creating mock TED Talks, and viewing actual TED talks can channel that human instinct to learn and help students make sense of topics they struggle understanding.  
If your school has its own TV broadcast system, imagine students creating brief TED talks on bullying prevention, drug awareness, cyber bullying, social media safety, and other student issues. How would  these student TED Talks impact a school culture? 

Kids are more creative than adults; if given the opportunity to create their own TED Talk network, students regardless of learning challenges and ability level could literally change the cultures of their schools through their own TED talks. If the TED founders have been able to inspire the world, then our children can do it too if we give them the chance to express themselves.  

Here’s one of my favorite TED speakers, Ken Robinson, on how schools kill creativity. I hope that whether you teach elementary, middle or high school, you can think of a way to create your own mock TED talks in your class. Even if some of the TED talks are too mature for your students, you can apply the concept of TED to your classroom by allowing your students to teach and inspire one another through the power of speech.

Please also visit TeachingWithTED to see a wiki listing great TED Talks, and a Glog created by one of the wiki contributors. (Couldn't find the name to credit the person who created this awesome Glog):

Also visit this site to find out how to "Do" a TED Talk:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Peachy Keen Presentations!

Have you heard of ? It's just a peachy site! Students will be able to upload images, choose music to complement the image, add a brief description and voila, there's an amazing slideshow presentation!  Imagine the possibilities in your classroom! Students can use to summarize a text they have read, using images and sound that capture the main idea or theme of the text. They can create images of various steps in a math problem, upload these, and then add text to explain each step and solution. What about uploading images, music and text to demonstrate their knowledge about a historical or scientific event, or notable figure? Creating a slideshow to showcase a writer, define literary terms, vocabulary, or book genres won't be the pits anymore! is sweet! 

Hope you'll check it out and share how you used this easy tech tool in the classroom! Endless possibilities!

See my photopeach sample featuring the web tool logos of tech tools I've talked about, and those you can look forward to learning about in future posts.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Say Aloha to Wikis: Using Wikis to Teach the Writing Process!

What did one control freak say to another control freak? "Get your hands off my wiki!" 

If you've heard the word wiki, but are not quite sure what it means or how to use it, then you've come to the right blog! Wikis are webpages created for ongoing editing and revision by one author or multiple authors. 

Control freaks and wikis do not mix well because a wiki is meant to be in a constant state of revision and editing by multiple authors. (The control freak will want to keep that wiki all to himself!) 

Wikis can be messy and should be! A wiki promotes collaboration and critical thinking. All students can throw in their two cents, and see every contributor's thought process, but they serve an even better purpose!  They teach students about the writing process. In many classrooms, writing is not taught as a recursive process. Students are given writing prompts, but rarely receive feedback to understand how they can improve their writing skills.  If they are lucky enough to receive feedback, students may not know what to do with that feedback, nor do they have the opportunity to revisit a writing piece to polish it. (And by the way, kids do read feedback if they're taught how to read it, apply it and and give it...another post for another day.) Here's where wikis are a breath of fresh of air and give new life to teaching the writing process!  

Teachers can create wikis for pairs of students who have different writing strengths, small groups of students or an entire class. These wikis can be safely shared online locally, nationally or globally by joining wiki sites like Wikispaces so students can receive writing feedback and participate in collaborative writing projects with their peers.  

If you're worried that wikis may be too messy for your taste because content may get deleted,  Hakuna Matata, no worries! (Oops, not a Hawaiian expression, but let's pretend!) When you create a wiki, there is a "revision history" so the wiki creator knows who edits, what is edited and even at what time the editing took place. Issues that may arise with wikis include:
  • allowing students practice time to learn how to use a wiki 
  • building a community of trust so contributors feel confident their contributions will be valued 
  • ensuring the quality of the content students add to the wiki
  • assigning authentic writing topics so students will be excited to write and collaborate
  • assigning subtopics to each student and/or roles so students have a distinct contribution
  • determining how you will assess the content added to the wiki
  • safeguarding your wiki so it is not vandalized or deleted                                                   
Luckily, wiki sites offer monitoring controls to wiki creators. You decide to make your wiki public or private, and who contributes and edits. Students can also add videos, images, audio or links of websites that support their content.  So, fear not and hang ten

A wiki can change students' attitudes about writing because they will participate in different aspects of the writing process.  Students will learn from their mistakes, recognize their peers's mistakes so they can help them, but most importantly they will collaborate with peers, and internalize the process of revising, editing, polishing and presenting their writing. 

Students at any grade level can create wikis on any subject, and even share their wikis with classrooms around the world to receive input from other student or teacher authors.

Check out these educational wikis looking for student and teacher collaboration! 

By the way, the word wiki-wiki is Hawaiian for fast or quickly! 
So start your class wiki, wiki-wiki today!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Just 5 Tech Tools Can Transform Our Classrooms!

If every teacher in America made an effort to learn how to use and implement JUST 5 Tech Tools a year, we can keep our "digital promise" and transform education. What do kids think when teachers use tech in the classroom? Check out the video to find out! Try Just 5 Tech Tools In Your Class This School Year! What tech tools are you currently using?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Less Is More- "Let's Start Just Five Movement!"

Since change is difficult, and many schools do not have the resources, nor do all teachers have the training or the confidence to incorporate technology in their classrooms, why not choose JUST FIVE Web tools or tech software resources every school must have NOW! For example, we have established that all American schools have at least one or more computers because our society entered the digital age decades ago. Education has not caught up! Regardless of demographics, computers do exist in all American schools. Now let's take a baby step and move toward identifying JUST FIVE Web Tools, or Tech Resources every American school MUST use to improve literacy and critical thinking.

Every classroom and every student does not need to have a computer YET, but if we identify and establish JUST FIVE Web Tools and Software that will improve literacy and critical thinking for every American student, we are taking baby steps to fulfilling the digital promise.  For example, every school should have at least one Skype session per school year to connect students globally.  Every school should require staff and stakeholders to become members of any digital PLN, such as Twitter, Ning.

What are JUST FIVE Web Tools and Tech Resources you believe are essential for integrating technology to improve literacy and critical thinking? 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Connect With Parents In A Snap @!

There's another great service fresh on the tech scene that can empower your communication with parents and students. In a snap, can help you send texts and emails to your students or parents keeping your number private unless you give it to them. has many similar features to GoogleVoice, 
but is different!

For one, you register in a snap, and use it to send short texts, and emails of 140 characters or less to notify or remind parents of tests, quizzes, HW deadlines, fieldtrips, school events, and any other quick information parents and students need to know.

With Google Voice, you have to register your contacts if you want to see who is calling you, but with, the onus is on the student and parent to subscribe to you. subscribers cannot respond to your texts or emails like they can with Google Voice. also allows you to create separate groups to send your text and/or email of 140 characters or less in different languages.

Here's how works:
1.) Register at as a teacher, administrator or parent who would like to refer your child's teacher, providing your role, email and school.
2.) Once you register, you will receive an email from to:
• confirm your email
• add the cell number you would like to register (Remember this always remains private!)
• choose your Class ID and
• accept terms of service
3.) After you submit this information, will send the cell phone you registered a text message that says: “Thanks for creating TrendingTeacher! Your texts to this number will be broadcast to followers. Followers text TrendingTeacher to this number to subscribe.”
(By the way, I chose the Class ID: TrendingTeacher and assigned a phone number to me which no subscriber can call or text, but subscribers will recognize the number as 917-477-3564 whenever I send them a text or email. )
4.) Give this number to subscribers, so they will recognize it and know when you are sending them texts or emails, and so that they can subscribe to your class ID. has a ready-made letter to send to parents
letting them know you will be using this service! Check it out on their webpage!

Click on this video screencast to listen to directions for registering parent/student subscribers and how teachers can send their texts/emails to parent/student subscribers. Be sure to click on the TV icon on the bottom right corner to enlarge the directions:

                   Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

• Parents and students can register to receive text, emails or both.
• You must use the cell number and email address you registered at to send texts and emails to subscribers.
• Parent/Student Subscribers never see your original number; they can’t respond to your message, or to each other.
• Parent/Student Subscribers can always unsubscribe by following the same directions above and adding the word STOP.

Now you can text/email parents from the comfort of your home if come across educational programming on TV that will enhance whatever students are learning in class. has many possibilities for enriching parent, student and teacher communication!

Make Teaching a Breeze By Connecting With Parents in a Snap! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Go Paperless or Go Home-Saving and Sharing the LiveBinders Way!

For teachers- 
In many ways, a teacher’s personal collection of materials and resources is like a wardrobe; we have some classic pieces we use over and over again, which never fail to impact and impress, but then there are those forgotten gems in the back of our closets, which thrill us when we stumble upon them and are able to restyle, rework and reuse. The longer we teach, the more “stuff” we have that we can’t seem to purge. Some of us are like California closets while others struggle to organize large quantities of teaching materials and resources. We see potential in every piece of content we receive or create and anticipate its benefits in the near or distant future. 
So how does a teacher organize all of his/her “stuff”? to the rescue! is a free site that allows teachers to upload, save, and share their materials and resources. Like a California closet, all files are neatly organized, and professionally presented safeguarding the lifespan of teacher resources and materials, and infusing them with a technological edge.
With, you can: 
  • upload and store your lesson plans, activities, tests, quizzes, projects, student work samples, manuals, handbooks, brochures, videos, PDFs, and more. 
  • share your LiveBinder with anyone you want by simply sending them the link of your LiveBinder.
  • bookmark links of articles, webpages, websites by simply adding the “LiveBinder It” bookmark tool to your browser. 
When you browse the web and find a link you want to save:
  • click on 'LiveBinder it' and save directly to an existing or new LiveBinder.  
All your bookmarked links and uploaded files will be neatly organized on one virtual page with an identifying tab with the option to create sub tabs. 
There’s no more worrying about binders getting lost, stolen, or pages falling out. makes it effortless to save and share your teacher materials and resources with anyone you choose!   
For students- 
Never hear the words: “I lost it!” or “I can’t find it!” ever again! can make  that happen for your students. LiveBinders is a great tool for students who need extra help with organizational skills, and even for those who don’t. LiveBinders is easy enough for students to create their own virtual 3-ringed binders. Both the teacher and the students can add content to the student’s binder. 
For parents-
Increase your parent/teacher communication by leaps and bounds with LiveBinder. Send your parents the link of their child’s binder, or create a special parent binder with information specially for parents. Add and share information to the binder when needed to keep parents in the loop at all times. Parents will love you for not having to buy expensive clunky 3 ringed binders or tab dividers! 
For administrators and school districts-
LiveBinders offers administrators and school districts the possibility of reaching all stakeholders with paperless binders that disseminate information, educate, and connect our goals!  LiveBinders can help educational stakeholders turn over a new leaf when it comes to Vertical Teaming, Conferences, Professional Development and more so we're all on the same page! 

Check out how to create a LiveBinder:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Adios, Au Revoir, Auf Wiedersehen to Analog!

Now no offense to Lawrence Welk. I have fond childhood memories of watching the show on our analog TV with my grandfather. I remember the bubbles while the big band played, the pretty singers in the flowing pastel dresses, the young female Mexican singer, and the African-American tap dancer.  When I think of it now, Welk was ahead of the game in terms of multiculturalism. He featured minorities as regulars on his show when most shows in the 60s were not. Maybe that was one of the many reasons Welk's show became a hit with American audiences. He was progressive! However, that was in the 50s and 60s!  Some people reading this blog may not even know who Lawrence Welk was, which serves as a case in point.  When it comes to teaching and learning, many schools are still operating in the Lawrence Welk era...students are still being required to sit in quiet rows; answering questions at the end of a textbook; forbidden to speak to each other, or even to the teacher for that matter; forbidden to ask questions; bored to tears listening to monotone lectures; copying notes from poorly lit overhead projectors; forced to answer multiple choice questions, and fill in the blanks on worksheet after worksheet, and punished to write lines, or behavior modification essays at the slightest sign of dissension. The Lawrence Welk era came and went. It served its purpose for our needs then, and maybe it didn't because we didn't know better. But when we realized there was something better, we embraced change. When we discovered that there were "Moves Like Jagger", and our needs were no longer being met, we created and searched for ways to do better. We progressed. Our lifestyles and perspectives evolved; we said "adios" and good riddance to so many aspects of society that the Welk Show represented, and we embraced something different: we embraced progress.  However, how have we truly progressed inside our classrooms since then? It's human nature there will be those who forever argue life was better in yesteryear, and that teaching and learning of yesteryear was superior to ours. They are not wrong because society then is nothing like society now.  Students then are nothing like students now. However, inside our classrooms, why do we hold on or revert to antiquated methods, turning on Welk and ignoring the rock and roll?  

If we were to visit every American school classroom, public and private, how many schools do you think are still tuning in to Welk rather than Maroon 5? ("Moves Like Jagger" reference full circle here, and another case in point if you're over 40 and have no idea what I'm talking about.)  If you're an educator of children, tweens, teens or young adults, it's essential that our classroom culture and technique is not a relic of the past, but a constant thriving and evolving source of inspiration where the next generation discovers their voice and identity, and is not held hostage by our own.  

As Lawrence Welk and his singers used to say every night:  

"Here's a Wish and a prayer that every dream comes true":  

Be not afraid to use at least one web tool in your classroom per week. Remember you can't break anything by clicking and pointing; the majority of web tools are super user friendly; you won't lose data as long as you remember to save it beforehand. You will save time; you and your students will have fun in the teaching and learning process, and most all, you will engage and challenge students to think so everyone can have "moves like Jagger" and not Welk.  Sorry Mr.Welk! Adios, Au Revoir, Auf Wiedersehen to analog! (P.S. For those under 30, these words were part of Welk's "Good Night" song lyrics.)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saving Trees,Time, and Privacy: The Paperless Parent/Teacher Contact Log

Would you dare give your students and their parents your cell or home phone number if it would save you time, paper and you could still maintain your privacy?

While no one would want to sacrifice their privacy for their environmental conscientiousness, now you can reconcile both. Divulging your cell or home phone numbers using Google Voice can give you the peace of mind that you are doing so to empower yourself as a teacher and transform how you communicate with parents. 

Google Voice allows you to create a paperless parent contact communication log saving you from countless hours of alphabetizing hundreds of student contact information sheets in clunky binders, and the stress of documenting difficult parent messages and conversations. 

Google Voice is a one stop shop with many parent/teacher communication features providing both written and verbal documentation any teacher can use for his/her parent contact documentation needs.

Here's how Google Voice works:
First, set up a Google account;  then, go to Google Voice and set up a Google Voice account. Google Voice will give you one phone number, and you can give this phone # to parents to call you. Parents NEVER SEE your original number; however, parent calls are transcribed and saved as emails for documentation of day/time of contact. 

One of my favorite features is that you can also send/receive texts to parents and students for reminders of tests, quizzes, HW, projects, important events, dates and more all while keeping your phone number private. Parents and students can never claim they were not informed of an important date because, like emails, there is a written record of who sent and received a message.  You can also set a specific time frame in the evening for students or parents to send you texts asking questions as well. These texts are also archived in Google Voice

Google Voice Gives Teachers A New Voice In The Classroom! 
If you set up your gmail contacts with pictures of your students and their parents’ email addresses, you can also see who is calling you on Google Voice, but best of all, you can send “blast” emails to your students’ parents.  Google Voice has so many more "teacher friendly"features to empower and transform your parent/teacher communication! I hope you'll check them out!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Are They Talking Behind Your Back?

Whether you want to admit it, or not, there are two societies thriving in your classroom; one is in plain view which you take credit for leading fearlessly, and keeping under control,and then something very human begins to happen right behind your back. Whether we like it or not, an “underground” society emerges which you as the teacher are not privy to, a secret society inaccessible to you because of the role you play: “The Teacher”. Regardless of how cool you may think you are as a teacher, and how much you think your students admire and respect you, students do talk behind your back! is a service allowing us as teachers to enter the teen psyche and surreptitiously discover what they are talking about “behind our back” during a lecture, a discussion, a guest speaker, a viewing of a film, and so many other school activities requiring them to be a passive audience member. EMPOWERS you as the teacher because students are held accountable for listening; they are no longer spectators, but participants in an interactive audience requiring them to hold their own by providing comments, questions, speculations, arguments, answers, solutions, evidence, opinions, explanations, reflection, analysis, application…the list of possibilities is endless and dependent on the criteria YOU set for the * “backchannel” conversations students undeniably have behind our backs. Obviously we cannot control the conversations students have outside of our classrooms, but EMPOWERS us to control the conversations students are having “behind our backs” inside our classrooms.

* Backchannel is a term used by James Socol, creator of Socol says “backchannel” is “everything going on in the room that isn’t coming from the presenter… where people ask each other questions, pass notes, get distracted, and give you the most immediate feedback you’ll ever get.”
The temptation for students to pass notes, and have sidebar conversations is virtually eliminated with EMPOWERS you as the teacher to know exactly what students are thinking, and therefore instantly obtain feedback about a student’s depth and breadth of understanding during any type of presentation.

How does work
Step One
Prior to any type of presentation, demonstration or listening activity, visit to create and name a room where your students will be talking to each other while they hear the presentation.
  • You can choose to have students talk to other students who are in the same classroom at the same time; or you can collaborate with another teacher to have two or more classrooms engage in a conversation by listening to the same content at the same time. Every student will need to have his/her own computer. If computers are available for every student in a school building to use all at the same time, an entire school can view a presentation and engage in conversation on integrating subjects, grade and achievement levels, and encouraging cooperation and communication among all students and teachers.
Step 2
Decide when you would like to delete the room, i.e., in 2 hours, 8 hours, 12 hours, one day, one week, one month, or one year. The type of presentation students will be listening to will determine the longevity of the meeting room. If you plan on having an on-going discussion, you may want to extend the time so you can return to the same room where the feed of previous posts will appear and serve as a recap of a prior conversation.

Step 3
Once you have created and named your “talking room”, provide your students with the URL of the room. For example:
Create a room
Name a room: Lab demonstration # 1
Delete a room: in 2 hours
Click on Create a room.
  • Note: If the name you chose for your room is already taken, a red X will appear next to the URL under the heading of Name a room.
  • Once you click on Create a room, the next window to appear will be a split page with two sides; “Listen” on the left and “Talk” on the right as well as a window for students to type their names.
  • It is important to set specific norms regarding the names students will use. When working with middle school students who may hesitate to share their true thoughts and feelings for fear of how their peers may perceive their posts, a teacher can EMPOWER her students by asking them to generate a pen name, which only she will know. The teacher can keep a log of the student names along with the secret pen names. This will ensure confidentiality and afford students the piece of mind they will not be criticized for their posts.
At this point, the teacher will have a URL to provide her students once they enter the classroom and before a presentation. The teacher can write the URL for all students to see and enter once they each have their own computer. Upon typing and entering the unique URL of the teacher created “talking room”, students will see the split page of Listen and Talk and will need to enter a name and click join to begin adding their posts.

How can EMPOWER you and your students
Students can use to engage in conversation after listening and viewing a myriad of activities, such as a lab demonstration, a lecture on any subject, a guest speaker, a film, an audio recording, a student presentation, a play, a written exercise practice while learning how to write a second language, a debate, and so much more.
  • You can even have a silent Socratic discussion after reading a specific text; instead of discussing the text out loud, both you and your students can post questions and responses on rather than having an oral discussion. This may enable the more reticent and timid students to gain confidence in their role in the class since they can use their pen name to posts their thoughts and keep their posts anonymous.
How will you use in your Empowered Class?                        Share your ideas

Teachers can use a as an assessment tool in a variety of ways. Student posts offer teachers instant feedback showing a student’s understanding of concepts being discussed. Student posts can provide teachers with an instant assessment or even a summative assessment of concepts taught. The possibilities to use as an assessment tool are endless. An Empowered Teacher needs to determine the content of what students will hear and/or see and identify how this content will help students meet the specific learning goals the teacher would like to students to reach.

Teachers can even use posts on to teach students Self-Assessment. Teachers can use both teacher and student models as examples of quality posts. Teachers can allow students to experiment with the technology first so they can feel comfortable writing posts and then lead them in a discussion about posting etiquette and what makes for an acceptable and unacceptable post. Providing a rubric indicating the frequency and quality of the posts, and posting etiquette is a must! Before using it is essential to explain norms for acceptable posts and provide specific examples of unacceptable posts. You may want to ask students to give you examples of what would be considered acceptable and unacceptable posts.

The discussion can be used as a springboard to study and explore other topics, which will naturally come up in the conversations.

Allow and accept the natural digressions, which may surface away from the topic at hand since it is not unusual for people to get off topic if for a moment during discussions.

Assist students in evaluating and interpreting their posts and those of others; Teachers can print the posts(feed) and have a follow-up conversation out loud about the thoughts posted. Questions teachers can ask are endless such as, what were the patterns? What comments stood out? Who had the most insightful remark and why? The wittiest? The strangest? Evaluate the off-topic comments as well and discuss what effect they had on the conversation.

Always consider their strengths and weaknesses of your students and their varying degrees of ability regarding critical thinking, spelling, typing speed, etc. prior to the session and after. The teacher should take time to self-reflect on what were the advantages and disadvantages for the different ability groups. What modifications can be made next time using What worked well and what needs tweaking? What did students appear to be confused about? What may have caused the confusion?

Bring your students’ hidden questions and thoughts to the surface of your classroom to promote conversation, critical thinking, and most importantly to determine the homogeneity and/or heterogeneity of your students’ thoughts. lets you enter your students’ mind. Empower yourself in your classroom by guiding what your students are saying “behind your back”.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Evolution of Vocabulary Instruction:

So on Monday, you assign your students 20 vocabulary words; give them a menu of tried and true vocabulary exercises on Tuesday to challenge them to learn and use the words throughout the week; test them on Friday, yet half the students fail the vocabulary test. A month later, most students say they have never heard those words in their entire lives.  Does this routine sound familiar? 

In many ways, how are we still living in the stone age when it comes to vocabulary instruction? How can we evolve our vocabulary instruction to the next level?

What benefits result from assigning long lists of vocabulary words that students have never seen and cannot pronounce? In what ways do we ensure students continue to use the vocabulary they learn in and out of the classroom?

Fotobabble can revolutionize how we teach vocabulary! Students can choose or create an image to show how it represents the meaning of a word; they can use  artwork, photos, original drawings, etc. Students can scan graphic organizers to analyze a word, and record themselves explaining the graphic organizer. The possibilities are endless! 

How do our students benefit from vocabulary worksheets and workbooks?  Are these resources working to help students internalize words if we are only requiring them to fill in blanks to memorize words for a weekly test, and never see, hear or use the words again? 

Kylene Beers, author of When Kids Can’t Read:What Teachers Can Do ( shares an interesting teacher experiment proving students feel overwhelmed “learning, using and remembering” long lists of words if they have never seen the words, and never hear their teachers use the words in a meaningful, relevant context. Beers suggests students learn more words when teachers focus on fewer words and model the word for students in everyday classroom speech.

Here’s where comes in: is a site that allows you to upload images and add your voice to an image. 

How can you fearlessly use this web 2.0 tool in your classroom?

Whenever you teach vocabulary, you can use fotobabble so students can upload a visual cue for a vocabulary word and record their voice to:
  • define the vocabulary word.
  • use the word in context in an original sentence, or paragraph.
  • explain multiple examples for the vocabulary word, such as connotation, pronunciation, spelling, part(s) of speech, suffixes, prefixes, roots, synonyms, antonyms.
  • use context as a clue revealing the word’s meaning.
  • use other words that share the same root, prefix, suffix as the word being studied.
  • use the word in different contexts.
  • compare and contrast the word to other words to reveal relationships between particular words.
  • explain the graphic organizer that analyzes the word.
  • share an excerpt from a fiction or non fiction passage where the word is used.
  • use the word to create a figure of speech.
  • use the word to create an analogy.
These are just a few ways to use Fotobabble, but most importantly use fotobabble so STUDENTS LEARN HOW TO CREATE THEIR OWN CONTENT!
Fotobabble allows teachers and students to create critical thinking activities that include voice and imagery, guaranteed to improve vocabulary skills. When students have the opportunity to create their own content, they are collaborating with peers and experiencing multiple opportunities to see, hear and use vocabulary.  

Research shows students do not make any gains on vocabulary sections of standardized tests because they are not internalizing vocabulary if they never hear the words used again in the classroom. ( 

Poor readers have poor vocabulary, and longs lists of words kids can't even pronounce and may never see or hear again produce nothing but boredom and frustration! Learning new words should be exciting for students, not a tedious chore!

Please share how you have used Fotobabble to teach vocabulary!

Check out the lesson plan in the lesson plan section, and the Fotobabble tutorial by anamariacult so you can begin to change the way you teach vocabulary. Whatever the subject, or grade level, we all teach vocabulary, and Fotobabble can help our students improve their vocabulary skills!

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