Monday, December 7, 2009

Digital divide can make completing assignments complicated for students

While the digital divide has narrowed among students nationwide, the use of technology in learning is still difficult for students who do not have access to the Internet at home. Students without home computers work to complete assignments during limited hours at school computer labs or travel to public libraries, where they struggle to complete their work during timed sessions. At one Virginia school, administrators have instituted a special study period during the school day to provide computer time for students who cannot come in early or stay late. The Washington Post

Friday, December 4, 2009

Teachers calculate value of games at math workshop

Educators in a Colorado district are learning new ways to provide differentiated instruction in math, thanks to a series of workshops by Nanci Smith, a consultant with ASCD. Teaching math and problem-solving skills through hands-on activities like puzzles and card games can be "more fun and engaging than problems on a worksheet," said Smith, who used many of the games during her tenure as a high-school math teacher. Journal-Advocate (Sterling, Colo.)

Classroom wikis are collaborative tools for young writers

Young writers at a Massachusetts middle school are using online wikis, or collaborative Web sites, to share and revise written work in a group setting. A recent class wiki project featured fall poems written by sixth-grade students who collaborated on revisions to each other's work. Even shy students are empowered to participate, language-arts teacher Neil Kulick said. "The wiki is an equalizer in classroom participation," he said. The Boston Globe

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Flagship Ed-Tech Conference

Chatsworth, Calif. – More than 400 of the nation’s top technology companies, dozens of global experts on educational technology, thousands of educators and a well-known actor and environmentalist will converge on Orlando, Fla., in January when FETC 2010 convenes for its 30th anniversary conference.

Teachers, administrators, technology enthusiasts, bloggers and Web 2.0 experts have begun planning and registering to attend FETC 2010, one of the nation’s oldest and largest conferences devoted entirely to educational technology. The conference, which will be held at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center January 12-15, provides K-12 educators and administrators an opportunity to explore different technologies across the board, while increasing their familiarity with the latest hardware, software and successful strategies promoting student technology use.

The conference includes dynamic speakers, exhibitors and events, as well as the highly anticipated Opening Keynote Session on Jan. 13 which features Ed Begley Jr. – actor, environmental activist and star of the Planet Green series, Living with Ed! Begley will speak on the importance of education and personal responsibility for the environment.

“FETC is a great opportunity for educators from around the country to explore the latest in educational technology through workshops, speakers and hands-on experiences,” said Michael Eason, executive director of FETC. “Not only do attendees have the opportunity to learn about best practices from national experts, but they can also see and purchase the latest innovations in classroom technology from more than 400 exhibitors.”

FETC is known for being one of the most comprehensive and progressive ed-tech conferences in the country. This year’s conference will present more than 200 concurrent sessions and 80-plus ticketed workshops focusing on hot-topic areas such as 21st century skills, accountability, community connections, digital content, future and emerging technologies, virtual learning and many more. In addition, educators will be able to find solutions for working with tight budgets, improving curriculum and effectively integrating technology into the classroom.

New to this year’s conference is a “Brown Bag and Pre-Keynote Session” which will give attendees a first glimpse of the newest tech tools before the Opening General Session. Three of the nation’s foremost education technology leaders – Hall Davidson, Leslie Fisher and John Kuglin – will share their personal favorites while attendees enjoy a brown-bagged lunch. The 90-minute session will conclude with participants casting votes for their favorite “must have” ed-tech tool.

In addition to the keynote address, the conference will again present the signature “Eye-Opener Keynote” series, which are held each morning prior to the start of the session/workshop day. These informal, early morning gatherings feature inspirational speakers and innovative topics designed to generate thought and discussion throughout the day.

“Today’s economic and budget challenges make it even more essential for educators and administrators to attend professional development events such as FETC in order to learn about best practices and tools for extending limited resources,” said Eason. “Technology offers a way to do more with much less, and attending FETC is the best investment the budget-conscious educator can make in today’s economic climate. Plus, there are many resources, including American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and Title I and II monies, available to help defray some of the costs of attending.”

The $4.35-billion Race to the Top Fund, which is part of the 2009 ARRA, is the largest competitive and federally-funded investment in school reform. The plan rewards schools for past accomplishments and creates incentives for future improvements. According to the U.S. Department of Education, one of the ways this federal stimulus money can be used is to recruit, retain, develop and reward effective teachers and principals. For more information on federal funding, go to and search “ARRA.”

For more information on FETC 2010 – including a detailed list of sessions, exhibitors, ticketed workshops and registration information – visit

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I think critically, therefore I am

Times Higher Education, August 6 2009 Dr. Linda Elder

Teaching students to read and understand a text properly is essential to their intellectual survival in a complex world. Elder has developed a four-part approach to teaching her psychology students to think critically. As you read through the series of activities, remember that any of the details can and should be contextualized to fit the situation, student group, and so forth. I also found the comments interesting.
  • Part one: reading closely
  • Part two: analyzing the text
  • Part three: sharing papers and giving feedback to one another
  • Part four: speaking in the voice of the author (role-playing)

Monday, November 16, 2009

History-based video games inspire more indepth study

Game developers are hoping history-based video games will inspire more interest in subjects as diverse as Leonardo da Vinci and World War II. Recognizing that the games help with technical, critical-thinking and literacy skills, some libraries are including the games in their collections. "My hope is that bringing the idea of these types of characters into more popular culture will arouse some people's curiosities to investigate further and learn more," a game designer said. The Washington Post/Reuters (11/12)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

PC trends in education: Thin is in

Despite new trends in computing with devices such as the iPhone and the Kindle, simple personal computers and laptops are likely to remain the center of a student's technological universe, according to this review of the latest technology. Users can expect to see fewer optical drives and increasing touch-screen capabilities. Netbooks are also growing in popularity as a lightweight alternative for students who are already loaded down with heavy backpacks. eSchool News (11/11)

NJ Students Collaborate Online Using Web 2.0 Tools

More educators in New Jersey are utilizing the tools of Web 2.0 technology, which allows students shared access to content and more collaborative learning. While some educators caution about the downside to the latest technology -- like its propensity for distracting students -- others say wiki pages, classroom blogs, video conferences and online chats help students learn how to be creative and prepare them for college and the real world. The Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J.) (11/7)

Friday, November 6, 2009

North Carolina district prepares for technology overhaul

Educators in the Pamlico school system in North Carolina are preparing for a digital overhaul as they plan to spend $1.25 million in technology stimulus money awarded in September through an Enhancing Education Through Technology grant and the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus money. Laptops for middle-school and high-school students as well as iPod Touch technology for primary schools are all being considered for fall 2010. Pamlico administrators will also travel to other districts to find answers to technology-related questions. Joseph Spruill, the school system’s director of technology, said officials may travel to a district that no longer uses paper textbooks, and another to see how they are using technology in their math classrooms. Sun Journal (New Bern, N.C.) (11/5)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Schools are using robotics to teach math and science

Educators in some Washington state schools are using robotics projects as a hands-on way for students to learn math and science as well as improve teamwork, innovation and problem-solving skills. Members of the business community hope the program will also spur an interest in science and technology careers. "It's so empowering to children to build something and program it to do something, and it does it. It's better than any video game," one teacher said. The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Digital course-management tool is used to engage students

Connect, a new interactive course-management tool by McGraw-Hill, is being used by college professors and their students to share materials over the Internet. At a cost of about $40 a semester -- or $80 with a digital textbook included -- students have access to video lectures, class notes and practice exams that offer more questions in the areas where an individual student's scores are poorest. The Wall Street Journal (10/28)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Students learn from new, more interactive generation of video games

A trend to include gaming in school curricula has students playing a new generation of educational video games that are more social and interactive, allowing students to collaborate and solve problems related to the real world. Video game designers have integrated science, math and language concepts into game mechanics, so they no longer seem to students like schoolwork. The New York Times

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Texting may help students improve informal writing skills

Despite a myriad of concerns about the increasing use of text messaging by teens, some teachers and researchers say texting does not interfere with students' ability to use language properly and may in fact help students better express themselves through informal writing. "Writing is good. Writing is expressing thoughts. Expressing thoughts is good. We just don't like their modality," says Larry Rosen, a researcher and author of a book on the issue. The Charlotte Observer (N.C.) (10/26)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Alvin Toffler Quote

So, let's sit down as a culture, as a society, and say, "Teachers, parents, people outside, how do we completely rethink this? We're going to create a new system from ground zero, and what new ideas have you got?" And collect those new ideas. That would be a very healthy thing for the country to do. - Alvin Toffler on our public education system

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Smart phones are being used to help math students

At six high schools in North Carolina, students are participating in a corporate-sponsored experiment using school-issued smart phones to help them learn math. Figuring out how to use the phones effectively in the classroom is a "learning process," says one educator, but teachers and students say math concepts are being better understood, and students are even using the phones at home to record how they solved math problems and sharing the solutions with their classmates. Fast Company (11/2009)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Research shows trial and error helps students learn

Students learn more effectively through trial and error in answering questions about challenging material, according to researchers who found that getting answers wrong actually helps learning. Their research revealed that students perform better if they try to answer questions about a textbook passage before reading it. For example, students should try to answer questions before reading a textbook chapter, then read the chapter and answer them again during and after reading. (10/20)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Study Finds That Online Education Beats the Classroom

A recent 93-page report on online education, conducted by SRI International for the Department of Education concluded that “On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”

The report actually reviewed quantitative studies conducted from 1996-2008 that compared online and f2f versions of the same courses. On average, those in the f2f courses scored in the 50 percentile while those in the online versions scored in the 59th. It is a modest but significant difference. The report validates online learning as a viable alternative, which could significantly impact in transforming the educational experience.

What I found interesting in the comments that followed was that several people commented that instead of showing causation, the study actually shows correlation. The population of people taking course online tend to be a self-selected group. They are often older, more motivated individuals. They tend have greater access to technology in order to participate in online learning. What no one brought up was retention rates for f2f vs online. How many students started out in an online class but dropped? Those that continued and finished the class would definitely be the more motivated, independent learners.

Another trend in the conversation related to how we learn--whether independently or in community. Several comments reflected the idea that community could not be adequately created online. Although I agree that it is more difficult because of the distance and lack of body language cues, I disagree that online learners have to forgo community. I think the growth of social networks such as Facebook and Nings or even Yahoo and Google Groups shows that the Internet can actually bring people together.

In order to create an online learning community, however, takes forethought and facilitation. It should be a primary goal of the course. All too often students report that they feel isolated from their peers and colleagues, that they crave the human interaction. That's what discussion boards, chat sessions, video conferencing, group projects are for. As the article points out, "Until fairly recently, online education amounted to little more than electronic versions of the old-line correspondence courses. That has really changed with arrival of Web-based video, instant messaging and collaboration tools." If we are to truly transform education, then we need to look at how technology affords us (and our students) to do things we were not previously able to do/see/hear.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Top 10 Tools for Learning

For the last three years, Jane Hart with the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (UK) has been soliciting suggestions for her list of 100 top 10 tools for learning. With so many new and amazing ways to find and share knowledge out there today, narrowing to 10 is a tough task. Between March and November, 2009, she has invited learning professionals to contribute their top 10 tools for learning to help compile the top 100 list for 2009. Check out the current voting or contribute your own list.

The Top 10 Tools for 2008 were:

  1. Delicious (Social bookmarking tool)
  2. Firefox (Web browser)
  3. Google Reader (RSS / Feed reader)
  4. Skype (Instant messaging, VoIP tool)
  5. Wordpress (Blogging tool)
  6. Google Search (Web-based search tool)
  7. Google Docs (Web-based documents)
  8. PowerPoint (Presentation software)
  9. Moodle (Free Course management system)
  10. Blogger (Blogging tool)

Monday, August 10, 2009

15 Online Resources to Supplement Classroom Learning

Guest post from Karen Schweitzer, the Guide to Business School. Karen also writes about online colleges for

Are you looking for a great way to engage and motivate your students to learn? Many newspapers, magazines, museums, TV stations, and other institutions provide educational websites to supplement classroom learning. This article offers a list of 15 educational sources worth exploring:

NASA - NASA provides a series of resources for K-12 and higher to motivate students in math, science, technology, and engineering. Resources include NASA e-clips, video podcasts, research tools, games, and NASA television.

Scholastic - A trusted name in learning, Scholastic offers programs that make reading and learning fun. One such program, The Stacks, features several book lists, games, and videos.

History Classroom - The History Channel provides an online History Classroom and Education page loaded with tons of great features. Just a few of the resources you can find are interactive lesson plans, study guides, videos, and speeches.

Smithsonian Education - The Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies offers several supplemental resources for teachers, families, and students. Their site features fun and interactive games and references for elementary and middle school children, along with lesson plans and tools for teachers.

National Geographic - This educational site for students and teachers provides a number of great resources for learning about geography, culture, and conservation. Fun and interactive projects and games are available for students of all ages.

PBS Teachers - PBS Teachers is an educational branch of It is designed specifically for teachers and houses several classroom resources, initiatives, activities, and lesson plans.

Discovery Education - Discovery Education hosts a number of engaging resources to help students learn more effectively. Some of the valuable resources you can find include classroom tools, interactive games, and a homework helper.

CNN Student News - This educational site, provided by, features several different news resources to connect students with events occurring around the world. CNN Student News also offers quizzes, learning activities, news articles, podcasts, and more.

Newspapers in Education - The links to newspapers in several states that provide innovative tools to connect students to local and world events. When you click on your local link or sign up for free, Newspapers in Education will provide lesson plans by grade, quizzes, Cartoons for the Classroom, and Words in the News.

Time for Kids - Time for is a site dedicated to motivating kids to read. This online version of the classroom magazine features teaching resources, homework helpers, entertainment news, and animal news. Teachers can also find the table of contents and a PDF of the full magazine online. - is an educational portal to the U.S. government for grades K-8. This site links you to an age appropriate web page from federal agencies and other educational sources. Many of these pages incorporate lesson plans and activities.

Learning Network - The Learning Network, provided by The New York Times, offers a wealth of resources for grades 3-12. Within this site, visitors can find news summaries, lesson plans, science Q & A, and education news.

White House - The White House gives children a look into several aspects of the U.S. government, including government branches, history, and issues. One fantastic feature for elementary education is the White House 101. Within this page, you can find information on past presidents, fun facts, and first pets.

Highlight Teachers - Highlight Teachers features several different resources to supplement classroom learning. Resources include activities, articles, interactive games, and more.

BrainPOP - This site features colorful interactive games and resources to motivate students to learn. BrainPOP is broken down into subjects and includes activities, lesson plans, quizzes, and classroom tools.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Links for Online Course Content Resources

Much front-end production time in creating a new course or converting a course to online will be spent planning and producing content.

In considering media for inclusion in your online course, consider
Fleming's six-element typology of teaching tasks and objectives: 1) attention, 2) perception and recall, 3) organization and sequencing, 4) instruction and feedback, 5) learner participation, and 6) higher-order thinking and concept formation. The following media and modes are considered because they are common and familiar, and also because they constitute the tools most available to online teachers, trainers, and learners: 1) print and text, 2) still graphics and illustrations, 3) sound and music, 4) video and moving graphics, and 5) multimedia.

Over the next few postings, I plan to provide a variety of annotated links to resources on the web for instructors to use in developing their lessons. We’ll start with Science.

CHEMISTRY COLLECTIVE is a collection of virtual labs, scenario-based learning activities, and concepts tests which can be incorporated into a variety of teaching approaches as pre-labs, alternatives to textbook homework, and in-class activities for individuals or teams. It is organized by a group of faculty and staff at Carnegie Mellon University for college and high school teachers who are interested in using, assessing, and/or creating engaging online activities for chemistry education.

(LabBench Activities)
Site maintained by Pearson--series of interactive flash demonstrations

  • Lab 1: Diffusion & Osmosis
  • Lab 2: Enzyme Catalysis
  • Lab 3: Mitosis & Meiosis
  • Lab 4: Plant Pigments & Photosynthesis
  • Lab 5: Cell Respiration
  • Lab 6: Molecular Biology
  • Lab 7: Genetics of Organisms
  • Lab 8: Population Genetics
  • Lab 9: Transpiration
  • Lab 10: Circulatory Physiology
  • Lab 11: Animal Behavior
  • Lab 12: Dissolved Oxygen

BIOINTERACTIVE VIRTUAL LABS: Maintained by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The Virtual Labs won top honors in the 2002 Pirelli INTERNETional Award competition.More than 1,200 multimedia entries competed for the Top Pirelli Prize, which recognizes the best multimedia products designed to use the Internet to educate about science and technology. The site a variety of video clips, animations, and virtual labs.
  • The Transgenic Fly Virtual Lab
  • The Bacterial Identification Lab
  • The Cardiology Lab
  • The Neurophysiology Lab
  • The Immunology Lab

Virtual Science: Experiments,"Hands-on", Laboratories (from MIT)
  • Links to interactive science resources gathered by MIT

VADLO: Biomedical and Life Sciences Search Engine: Vadlo was developed by two biology scientists who wish to make it easier to locate biology research related information on the web. Vadlo search engine caters to all branches of life sciences. VADLO allows users to search within five categories: Protocols, Online Tools, Seminars, Databases and Software. Feel free to copy the Cartoons for your personal use and PowerPoint presentations!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Learning World Affairs Through Digital Media | Edutopia

Global Kids uses media and technology to foster civic participation and global awareness. In its Online Leadership Program, students make games, create animated movies, and produce videos that explore global issues.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

20 Hi-Tech Tools for Classroom Teachers

Today's blog represents a change from my usual blogging habit. Karen Schweitzer, the Guide to Business School is Guest Poster. Karen also writes about accredited online colleges for I am especially happy with her selection since she introduces me to several sites I hadn't found before.

There are lots of different ways to integrate technology in the classroom. You can start an online community, encourage students to blog, create your own slide shows, and use websites as part of your lesson plan. Here are 20 hi-tech tools that will help you do all of these things and more:

  1. Bloglines - Bloglines is a free online service that makes it easy to track student blogs. You can place all of the blogs you follow on one web page and access them with your PC or mobile device.
  2. Mikogo - This free screen sharing tool can be used in classrooms with multiple computers.
  3. Mikogo can display whatever is on one computer screen on up to ten other screens.
  4. Edomodo - Edomodo is a free private communication platform for students and teachers who want to share links, files, notes, and more. Edomodo can also be used to securely send assignments, test alerts, and other important information.
  5. Campfire - Designed specifically for group messaging, Campfire makes it easy to stay in touch with students and parents. This web-based tool charges a modest fee for their service, but you can try it for free for 30 days.
  6. Engrade - Engrade is an online classroom community for teachers who want to manage their classroom online. It can be used to send homework, assign grades, communicate with parents and students, and much more.
  7. SchoolTool - This free suite of administrative tools is used by schools all over the world. It includes a gradebook, attendance calendar, customizable applications, and other features that would be useful to school teachers and support staff.
  8. Bookgoo - Teachers who are tired of marking homework and tests with a pen can upload documents and mark them on a PC with Bookgoo. Documents can be highlighted, annotated, and shared with others online.
  9. ClassMarker - ClassMarker is a free online quiz maker for teachers. Quizzes can be taken online, at home, or in the classroom. When the quiz is finished, ClassMarker grades it automatically.
  10. Empressr - Empressr is a free multimedia tool that can be used to create presentations for the classroom. Empressr supports photos, video, music, audio, and text.
  11. SlideShare - Students and teachers can create online slideshows with this free tool. SlideShare works with Word documents and PowerPoint.
  12. TeacherLed IWB - TeacherLed offers a huge collection of classroom resources that can be used with an interactive whiteboard (IWB). Resources include activities for math, English, and geography.
  13. Twrivia - Teachers who want to begin using Twitter in the high school classroom will love Twrivia. This free Twitter app offers a new trivia challenge each day.
  14. Group Tweet - Group Tweet can be used to send private messages via Twitter--a great way to communicate with a select group of students, parents, or teachers.
  15. Virtual Museum - The Smithsonian Museum offers this free guided tour to students who want to take a virtual field trip to the museum. Students can explore various exhibits using a map and navigational tools.
  16. Newseum - Newseum is an interactive museum of news in Washington D.C. As a service to students and visitors, Newseum displays the front page of daily newspapers on their website--perfect for classrooms who are trying to learn about current events or news in various states/cities.
  17. GeoEdu - GeoEdu is free software that includes an atlas and a built in game for students who want to learn more about geography. The atlas includes information on all of the countries in the world and the game features more than 100,000 questions about the atlas.
  18. Footnote - Footnote combines social networking with historical documents to create a fun and unique learning experience. The site hosts millions of records and documents and provides a place for older students to share content and opinions on historical events.
  19. Academic Skill Builders - This site is a great place to find standards-aligned educational games for students to play at home or in the classroom. All of the games are designed to teach basic math, language arts, vocabulary, and thinking skills.
  20. Artopia - Artopia is a free, web-based arts community for middle school students. The site provides lesson plans for teachers, activities for students, and a place to upload student art for display.
  21. SparkTop - This non-profit website is dedicated to providing ad-free educational content for kids. The site focuses on online games and activities for students who learn differently because of a learning disability (LD) or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I Stumbled Upon FindSounds

This post actually pulls in two new tools I have found recently. The first is a browser plug-in called Stumble Upon. This plug-in works with both Firefox and IE. StumbleUpon helps me discover and share great websites. As I click Stumble! in my toolbar, I get websites matched to my personal preferences. I set up my preferences to focus more on the topics I am dealing with educationally and with my job as Instructional Designer. I've found sites I probably would never get to with a generic Google search.

One of those sites is FindSounds. One of the projects I'm working on is an i3D Visual Learning Object for a collaboration between a community college biology instructor and a high school biology teacher. We are working on creating a visualization of an animal and plant cell. One idea to help students remember each component of the cell was to attach a sound that would be representative (sort of like Fantasia for the cell). For example, the user would hear a strong bass drum sound when he/she rolled over or clicked on the nucleus. FindSounds finds sounds on the web. There is a partial list of examples searches or I can type in a word and search that way. I can't wait to play.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Create Your Own Avatar with Evolver

I created this version of me using Evolver. Not a bad likeness if I do say so. If I had had a front-on pic of me without my glasses, they could have cloned my face. I was able to pick out both face and body type. The clothing selection was extremely limited though. This is a screenshot, but I can transport the avatar into games, virtual worlds--or turn my avatar into a 3D model for Maya or 3dStudio Max.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009


SoftChalk creates software for teaching. They specialize in developing software that is intuituve and easy to use, yet allows instructors to create powerful, sophisticated and professional-looking content for e-learning classrooms in K–12, Higher Education, and corporate training.

With SoftChalk LessonBuilder you can....

  • Create interactive web pages for your e-learning course with SoftChalk LessonBuilder. It's easy, quick, and your lessons will look like a professional designer created them.

  • Engage your students with lessons that include pop-up text annotations, self-assessment quizzes, and interactive learning games.

  • Package your lessons for delivery via CD-ROM, Intranet, Internet, or integrate with your LMS (Learning Management System).

If you can use a word-processing program, you can use LessonBuilder. Designed for teachers and content-experts who don't have time to learn complex software, LessonBuilder is simple, yet powerful, with only the features you need to create exciting, interactive, content for your online course.

“The release of SoftChalk V5 offers a solution for institutions that want to maximize their investment in eLearning, create an environment of shared ideas and information, and lower their costs,” said Sue Evans, CEO of SoftChalk. “The new features of V5 that really speak to these issues are the ability to embed widgets into a lesson and the digital repository search and eCourseBuilder tools.”

Highlights of the new features included in SoftChalk V5:

  • With the digital repository, users have the ability to perform keyword searches across multiple media repositories at a time, including media from open sources (YouTube, Flicker), fee-based premium services (Intelecom), or library repositories available through the organization itself.
  • The embedding of widgets offers the option of including Web 2.0 features. Blogs, polls, surveys, widgets, wikis, and videos can now easily be inserted to create dynamic lessons.
  • The eCourseBuilder tool combines multiple lessons into larger eCourse modules with automatic calculation and tracking of score information between and within lessons.
Other features and enhancements within the new release include an option that will allow lessons to directly publish to Blackboard, as well as a new photo album activity, quiz group function, table of contents, and accessibility options.

Friday, June 12, 2009

FireFox Collections and FireShot

The Cool Cat Teacher Blog recently discussed new feature to FireFox: Firefox Add-on Collections. Anyone can create a new collection and share it with your friends. To create your own collection you must register on Firefox’s site; after that, creating a collection is quite easy: choose a name, and pick which add-ons you want to be in your collection. You can browse other collections in the Collection Directory, and you’re also able to filter them by popularity, or you can browse through the Editor’s picks. FireFox published a video overview on their blog.

All this is a lead-in to the fact that I browsed Cool Cat Teacher's collections and found a new add-on that I installed: FireShot. Ever need to take a screen shot of your browser window only to find that you can't get everything you want in one shot. Well, Fireshot to the rescue. Fireshot is a browser add-on (currently works in IE and FireFox) that goes beyond the functionality of Print Screen. In addition to having the option of taking a screen shot of the entire web page or just a section of it, this plugin also provides a set of editing and annotation tools, which let users quickly modify captures and insert text and graphical annotations.

Screenshots can be saved to disk (PNG, GIF, JPEG, BMP), printed (NEW), copied to clipboard, e-mailed and sent to external editor for further processing. A free image hosting web-server is also provided. Here's a short demo on how to capture and annotate a page.

FireShot is absolutely FREE! FireShot has NO TIME LIMITS and you are free to send it to your friends, distribute it at your blog, web site or include it into packages.

FireShot for Firefox Download FireShot for Firefox!
FireShot for Internet Explorer Download FireShot for Internet Explorer!

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Monday, May 18, 2009

Glogster - Poster Yourself.

I found the really neat site today called Glogster. A glog is a digital poster that can contain images, video and sound. Creators can share them with other people via their social network or website and say what is special to them about their lives.

Brenda at Education World notes, "Glogster goes beyond being just another “scrapbbooky" tool -- it introduces students to 3-D communication skills, requiring them to merge the left and right sides of the brain as they seek to communicate and evaluate both information and meaning. The visual, audio, and textual capacity of Glogster not only will appeal to digital learners, it has the potential to support the visual literacy skills that are becoming essential skill sets for 21st century learners."

Glogster recently launched an educational version for teachers at Glogster has tried to make this tool as teacher-friendly as possible by making it easy to set up a class account, which provides a private account for each student (and generates passwords and e-mails them to the teacher). Traci Blazosky has developed a Glogster Tutorial page. Can you imagine how Glogster could change the face of book reports, biographies, creative writing? Below is a glog on Web 2.0 tools. It includes hyperlinks and interaction.

A Vision of K-12 Students Today

I came across this video on TeacherTube. It's a reconfiguration of a couple of YouTube videos I've seen with the focus now on K-12. I really like the fact that Nesbitt got 16 digital natives to help with the production of the video.

One comment asked, "At what point did students transition from "I am engaged in learning because I value education" to "Engage me and make me learn?" It is scary to think that current educational philosophy puts ALL of the onus on teachers to MAKE their students learn, rather than on students." I'm wondering if the majority of students were ever involved in education simply because they valued learning--whether that is a myth we tell ourselves. What is it about today's education that students should value? Are we teaching them the skills that they can use to get a job, to be productive citizens? If they are using technology daily, then it is our responsibility to teach them how to use it appropriately, ethically, efficiently, effectively.

I don't think that technology puts all the onus on the teachers. I think technology allows teachers to be co-learners, to provide learning opportunities that have never been available to the majority of people before. My students can now sit in the Globe Theater and participate in an Elizabethan production in Second Life. Using i3D technology, they can go into a cell and see protein synthesis occurring--and even manipulate DNA to create mutations. They can tour the Louvre without leaving the United States. On the other hand, they can also be creators of knowledge. They can collaborate on a group project using wikis or publish essays previously only seen by the teacher in their blogs for the whole world to see. They can participate in peer-reviews, share research, and meet experts--all on the Internet.

It is our job as teachers to move out of the Industrial model of "sage on the stage" and dispensing of knowledge into "empty containers." We must realize that not only has our world changed, but our students have also changed. They have different expectations--and the business world has different expectations also. We have a responsibility to produce technologically literate citizens, which means that we HAVE to use technology and have our students use technology in their learning activities.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Games, Simulations, and MUVEs

Educational (or serious) games, simulations and multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) range from games that require simple, repetitive actions, such as Tetris, to complex digital worlds such as Second Life. Interactive 3D learning objects currently being developed at Fayetteville Technical Community College provide a tiered approach: simple demonstration, demonstration and narration, practice, and evaluation/self-assessment.

Games, simulations, MUVEs, or i3D learning objects designed for the educational community embed tasks or problems within a virtual context. Users can explore the environment and examine digital objects. In simulations, they can operate machines, perform experiments, and test hypotheses. With all this media, whether game, simulation, MUVE, or i3D learning object, a primary advantage is the interaction--the user participation. One additional advantage of the MUVE, is there is also a means to communicate with other users and online experts.

Chemsense provides software that simulates an environment in which students can explore chemical processes and see the effects of changes. Students also can collaborate on their work in this environment.


Froguts is subscription-based software that students can use to simulate dissecting several different animals, including frogs, fetal pigs, squids, and starfish.

Rabbits and Wolves

Shodor's mission is to advance science and math education through the use of computational science, modeling and technology. With the Rabbits and Wolves simulation developed by Shodor, students explore how nature keeps balance by varying the number of rabbits and wolves that live in a defined space. It includes directions and activities for students as well as background information for teachers.

River City Project

The River City Project, developed by Harvard under an National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, provides a virtual nineteenth century American town plagued by disease. Students work in teams to develop a hypothesis regarding the disease’s cause. They can interview citizens of River City, read relevant documents, visit the hospital, and review photographs. Research indicated that users showed greater improvement in their inquiry skills and a better understanding of the science content than did control students who used a paper-based curriculum. Unfortunately, support for the River City Research Project will end this summer (2009). It seems unlikely that River City will be available in the next school year.

Quest Atlantis (through Indiana University) is an international learning and teaching project that uses a 3D multi-user environment to immerse children, ages 9-15, in educational tasks. QA combines strategies used in the commercial gaming environment with lessons from educational research on learning and motivation. It allows users to travel to virtual places to perform educational activities (known as Quests), talk with other users and mentors, and build virtual personae. Over the last four years, more than 10,000 children on five continents have participated in the project. Research has demonstrated learning gains in science, language arts, and social studies.

The Education Arcade was established by leading scholars of digital games and education. Researchers at MIT explored key issues in the use of a wide variety of media in teaching and learning through the Games-to-Teach Project, a Microsoft-funded initiative with MIT Comparative Media Studies that ran between 2001 and 2003. The project resulted in a suite of conceptual frameworks designed to support learning across math, science, engineering, and humanities curricula. Working with top game designers from industry and with faculty across MIT's five schools, researchers produced 15 game concepts with supporting pedagogy that showed how advanced math, science and humanities content could be uniquely blended with state-of-the-art game play.
  • One of those projects was Revolution, a multiplayer role playing game where students experience history and the American Revolution by participating in a virtual community set in Williamsburg, VA on the eve of the American Revolution. Revolution is designed to be played in a 45-minute classroom session in a networked environment. Revolution is a modification (or "mod") of the game Neverwinter Nights Gold, and users will need to acquire that game and install it (Windows only) first. The game is offered as a free download.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Virtual Learning in Second Life

Interactive 3D Learning

Traditional education primarily relies on books and lectures. Such methods of teaching facts, concepts, and structure rely on “two dimensional” lectures and textbooks to convey material that is inherently three-dimensional and dynamic, creating for many people gaps in understanding. i3D visual learning objects (VLOs) allow for the visualization of information that is difficult to describe textually. In addition, today’s student is a multi-channel, multi-tasking receiving entity. Lecture represents a single-channel, single-mode of distributing information. Interactivity provides the means to make knowledge “come alive”, facilitating comprehension and interest. Studies have shown that employing such visualization techniques will help the learner understand the message 33% faster, remember the message 37% longer, and make decisions 48% quicker. The queue time in effective knowledge transfer is reduced through the more natural medium: i3D.

Immersive and simulation learning offers intense experiences that are difficult to obtain in real life. Learners can address multiple different aspects of cognitive and psychomotor skills, including knowledge, tasks and skills, decision-making/problem-solving.

“Simulation” refers to a set of techniques that replace or augment real experiences with planned experiences. Often immersive in nature, they seek to replicate substantial aspects of the real world in a fully interactive fashion. “Interactivity” is important because it allows the user to navigate, communicate, and perform various activities. “Immersive” conveys the sense that participants have of being completing engaged in a task or setting as they would if it were the real world. While seamless immersion is not currently possible, research shows that participants in immersive simulations easily suspend disbelief and speak and act much as they do in their real jobs. Applications of simulations relate the intended goals of the activity to specific target populations of participants and to specific types of simulation and curricula.

Interactive simulation learning provides a bridge between students’ theoretical knowledge and the actual practices and decisions entailed in real-world situations. Using simulation technologies, learners are free to build on their current knowledge base and develop important skills before they work in real-world settings. They are able to make and learn from their mistakes prior to the real-world experience. i3D simulations enhance training or demonstrate concepts that can’t adequately be taught in the real world . Students are also able to participate in procedures or diagnose ailments not evident on a frequent basis in the real world. In addition, because any situation can be portrayed at will, these learning activities can be scheduled whenever convenient and repeated as often as necessary.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New Slideshow Posted to Slideshare

I recently created a PowerPoint presentation as an overview of the content for our Tech in the Classroom course. I finally got around to putting it up on my SlideShare account. Although SlideShare says you can now include YouTube videos in your slide shows, it limits the number to 5. Therefore, I deleted many of the videos I had included for how-to and clarification information. Unfortunately, I could only get the first video to play. So...back to the drawing board. This time, I took a screen shot of the video and hyperlinked it to the original. Luckily, the hyperlinks worked on the videos. They didn't always work for the hyperlinked text within the presentation. Sometimes, all I got was a hand allowing me to go forward or backward in the presentation rather than go to the site. Oh, well...

I hope you take the time to check out my slideshow. My Web 2.0: Imagine presentation, which I uploaded about 2 years ago has over 12000 views and 52 embeds. The newest presentation has similar information, but cleaner and more informative.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

YouTube Edu Launches

I noticed that Cool Cat Teacher discussed the launch of YouTube Edu and was intrigued. This is what I found. YouTube launched a new section of its site March 29. The site organizes the video channels of more than 100 colleges and universities--no mention of K-12 though.

According to Andrew Leville, "YouTube Edu lets viewers sort clips by school or number of views, and the schools offer content ranging from complete courses to campus events to information for prospective students. Currently, University of Minnesota commands the top spots, with videos on the science of “Watchmen” and HIV/AIDS advancements, but there’s also “Advanced Finite Elements Analysis,” a lecture from the Indian Institutes of Technology, and a mass performance of University of Kansas’s alma mater among the most-viewed."

According to the YouTube blog, "Using YouTube as a vehicle to democratize learning is one of the coolest, unintended outcomes of its existence. YouTube EDU is a volunteer project sparked by a group of employees who wanted to find a better way to collect and highlight all the great educational content being uploaded to YouTube by colleges and universities."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Tech in the Classroom

I am currently co-teaching a professional development course at FTCC called Technology in the Classroom. Roseann and I have arranged the course into modules which categorize the tools. The categories are: Communication, Collaboration, Organization/Management, Content Development, Assessment. We have found that many of the Web 2.0 tools can go under several categories.

Communication Tools

* Virtual Conferencing

o Elluminate

o Chats

o Skype

* Asynchronous Communication

o E-mail

o Blackboard Discussion Boards

* Social Networking

Collaboration Tools

* Google Groups

* Blogs

* Wikis

* Second Life

Organization/Management Tools

* Course Management Systems

o Blackboard

* RSS Feeds

o iGoogle

o Bloglines


* Flickr

* Slideshare

Content Development

* Microsoft Office

o Word

o PowerPoint

v o Excel

* Google Apps

* Learning Object Repositories

* YouTube/TeacherTube

* i3D

o Assets/Learning Objects

o Simulations

* Podcasts

* WebQuests

Assessment Tools

* Respondus

* Rubrics

* Project-Based Learning

* Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)

* Blackboard Test Manager

Our approach, in some ways, is modeled on the Learning 2.0 Program designed by the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County. Since its inception, over 200 libraries worldwide have launched similar programs. We have provided our teacher/learners with resources and Discovery Exercise "Assignments." Our goal is to not only introduce the technology tool but to also have instructors discuss and devise ways to incorporate/integrate the tools into their teaching methodologies.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Faculty Perceptions of a CMS

As online learning has evolved, so have the choices involved in the creation and delivery of instruction. With each new generation, more and more features are being added to the online learning repertoire and it is the responsibility of individual instructors to select the features that will best facilitate learning. Course Management Systems (CMS) provide an integrated approach to developing courses and teaching using web-based technologies. Course management software allows students and faculty access to several communication features and other benefits through one source. Harrington, Staffo, and Wright (2006) noted an increased interest in the effectiveness of course management systems and suggested that the proliferation of course management systems in higher education indicates that more research on their effectiveness is required.

Elgort (2005) found that the rate of adoption of online teaching and learning was, in part, facilitated by the institution’s introduction of a CMS because it appeared to reduce the learning curve for non-technologically-inclined instructors. Mitchell, Clayton, Gower, Barr, and Bright (2005) also found that the use of course management systems such as Blackboard, WebCT and Moodle highly correlated with faculty’s levels of adoption of online teaching and learning. These faculty also tended to rate the CMS as being valuable or very valuable, where non-adopters did not value the application highly.

Although CMS tools have become more available to faculty, the adoption process has not always gone smoothly (Kilmon & Fagan, 2007). For example, “assisting faculty to integrate technology into instruction” was identified by respondents to the Campus Computing Project survey as the number one IT issue affecting their institutions from 2000 through 2003, when network and data security overtook the top position (Hartman, Dziuban, & Brophy-Ellison, 2007). Even in cases where institutional support is high, two separate studies, conducted by Hutchins (2001) and Johnson and Howell (2005) noted that faculty attitudes may be hard to change to meet the demands of the new dynamic, and seem to suggest that a study of faculty attitudes should be a required portion of any research on the effectiveness of course management systems. Dugas (2005) found that the foremost reason for adopting or not adopting the course management system was the faculty member’s perception of the relative advantage of the software.

In the minds of many early adopters is an underlying fear about the use and applications of new technologies for teaching practices. Associated with this fear is the impact or the possible fallout of unsuccessful attempts at applying the technology. Thus, negative or positive perceptions remain a critical component in the behavior to adopt a technological innovation.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Useful Tips and Tools to Research the Deep Web

Alisa Miller's recently wrote on Online College Blog that "experts say that typical search engines like Yahoo! and Google only pick up about 1% of the information available on the Internet. The rest of that information is considered to be hidden in the deep web, also referred to as the invisible web." According to, a study by Bright Planet indicates that the deep web is estimated to be up to 550 times larger than the 'surface web' accessible through traditional search engines and over 200,000 database-driven websites are affected by the problem.

Alisa provides a list of 100 tips and tools to help get the most out of searching the Internet. I have regularly suggested to my students that they use a meta-search engine such as Dogpile or Metacrawler. This is Alisa's first suggestion. She provides a list of 12 different engines to try. UC-Berkley in Finding Information on the Internet: A Tutorial suggests that you create your own custom search engine. Google Custom Search Engines (CSEs) focus on selected websites within the Google database. They are easy to make at Google Coop. You will need a Google account or Gmail account. Make specialized search engines instead of using giant meta-searchers or huge search engine databases. Use them to focus on pages on a subject. For more details, see their Getting Started Creating a Custom Search Engine (PDF).

Of course, as a Ph.D. student, I've found that using specialized databases such as ProQuest, EBSCOhost, and more to be helpful. One of my favorite (fee charged) database is
Questia where you can not only access journal, magazine, and newspaper articles but also access whole books.

Unfortunately, many of the databases are just that--fee based. However, Google has worked with many publishers to gain access to some material that wouldn't ordinarily be accessible to search spiders because it is locked behind subscription barriers. This information is available through Google Scholar. Google also offers Google Books. If you want to check out a book before you buy, this is the way. One drawback--in order to comply with copyright laws, Google can't display the whole book. Whole sections of the book will be unavailable. Joel at BizzNTech provided 15 Handy Google Search Tricks.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Changes in the New Year

I am currently in the throes of packing to move to Fayetteville, NC, where I will start my new job as Instructional Designer at Fayetteville Technical Community College on January 5. I am excited about the new possibilities! I will be working on a new project to develop 3-D animated learning objects and to create an online learning objects repository.

I've received comments back from my mentor on Chapters 1 & 2 of my dissertation. I've created a survey instrument based on Roger's diffusion of innovations theory which includes questions on the perceived attributes of the course management system, organizational support, and channels of communication (specifically faculty development opportunities). I hope to be able to complete my pilot study in the next couple of months.