Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Great Way to Find Popular Keywords for Your Blog or Other Published Content

One reason I love my blog is that when I'm sitting alone and I find something really cool that I’m excited about and want to share, with my friends...now I can. One reason I love Twitter is that I can tell people I just found something really cool about [fill in cool thing here] so go look at my blog.

So what did I find?

I found this great tool for bloggers and others with published web content on Google called the Keyword Tool which is perfect for people like me who wonder about tagging blogs and other published items. Sometimes I kind of just put whatever thoughts come to mind but I wonder are these the words people would really use to find me??? Well wonder no more! You can use the Keyword Tool to get new keyword ideas AND you can get data about how often those words have been searched last month and on average. How cool is that?

Thoughtshot of my mind…ugh, does this mean I should go back to my old posts to find the right keyword?

Here's how it works:

First you put in the url of your blog if you want keywords for your whole blog or the url for a particular post if you want keywords for one post.

Then you select “Get Keyword Ideas” and it analyzes your site.

Then Wah lah!!!..You get this cool chart with keyword categories and data about search volume.
Here is what I selected from the keyword suggestions for this post: keyword tool, keyword generator, keyword suggestion tool, keyword generator, keyword finder, blog traffic, promoting blog, blog tools.

Now this tool was actually made to go hand in hand with those people who want to use Google to advertise and hence come up to the top of Google on the right-hand column under sponsored links and by default we benefit too. Here are some of Google’s tips for using the tool.

What are some advanced tips for using the Keyword Tool?

The Keyword Tool is a great way to find new keywords for your ad campaigns. For example, if you run a budget hotel, the Keyword Tool can suggest helpful related keywords like "hotel discounts" or "motels." Adding these alternate terms to your ad group keyword lists can help you find new customers that you might otherwise have missed.

The Keyword Tool is especially helpful in three situations:

  • When you first create a new ad group
  • When your current keywords are performing poorly and you need to find better options
  • When you have one keyword that really works well and want to find more like it

Remember that the Keyword Tool works best with short keywords of one or two words in length. "Budget hotel" will get better results than "inexpensive place for lodging while on a trip." That's because if your keyword includes many words, the Keyword Tool may have a hard time determining the most important words and delivering the appropriate alternatives.

Ready for some advanced tips? Try using the Keyword Tool to:

  • Find keywords based on your site content. Instead of entering your own keywords, try using the Website Content option. It lets you enter the URL of your business website, or of any site related to your business. The AdWords system will then scan your page and then suggest relevant keywords. (This feature is available only in some languages.) Don't hesitate to enter the URLs of related sites, or even of your competitors' sites, to learn what keywords they might be advertising on themselves.
  • Create new, separate ad groups with similar keywords. We recommend creating several ad groups in each campaign, each with a small, narrowly-focused set of similar keywords. Use the Keyword Tool to discover relevant keywords, then divide them into lists of 5 to 20 similar terms. See examples of ad groups promoting a single product or service and multiple products or services.
  • Identify negative keywords. The Keyword Tool can show you off-topic keywords that users may be thinking about. Suppose you sell cut flowers and you give the Keyword Tool the keyword "flowers." It may suggest the related term "gardens," and you may want to add that term to your ad group as a negative keyword. That will keep your ad from showing on searches for "flower gardens" or similar terms. This helps make sure only interested customers see your ads.
  • Find synonyms - or not. The Use synonyms box in the Descriptive words or phrases option is always checked by default. (This means it might suggest "bed and breakfast" as a synonym for the keyword "hotel.") If you uncheck the box, the tool will suggest only keywords that contain at least one of the terms that you entered.
  • Specify a language and location. If you're using the Keyword Tool while signed in to your account, you may see an option to tailor results to a particular location and language. If you happen to be targeting Spanish speakers who live in France, make sure you set the Keyword Tool to that language and location.
  • Start broad and then get specific. Try broad terms like "flowers" in the Keyword Tool first. Then try specific terms like "red roses" or "miniature cactus."

The Keyword Tool also makes it easy to add keywords to your ad group if you're already signed in to your account. Just click 'add' next to the appropriate results. If you're not signed in to your account and you're using the standalone Keyword Tool, you can just copy the keywords to a separate document, then paste them into your ad group once you're signed in.

Ponderings
When I find things like this I always wonder are others thinking, "are you just finding this???" or are they thinking, "Oh wow. That's cool." I hope others have found this useful. I’m excited to test the tool out for this post. IIf you have some great ideas, tips or experiences with keywords, tagging please share.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Social Networking for Innovative Educators

When innovative educator Will Richardson speaks to audiences he often asks how many people belong to social networks (aside from dating sites*)? About 10% of hands go up depending on the audience. He follows that with how many people teach MySpace or Facebook? Usually no hands are raised. These are good questions and when I’ve been in the audience I put my hand up only half way because while I do have a MySpace account, I don’t really use it at all, so I almost feel like I’m cheating. MySpace just isn’t a place for me, even though I want it to be if for no reason other than to be more in touch with the digital natives. The reality for innovative educators though, is if we don’t quickly find value in what we are doing, we don’t pay it much attention. Although I see myself as an innovative educator, and wish I was more active in MySpace, and even taught it...I wasn't more active and don’t teach it because I wasn’t a deeply involved or experienced online social networker.

And, then came Ning…

I love Ning and think it is one of the greatest tech tools to come around. Ning (www.ning.com) is the only online service where you can create, customize, and share your own Social Network for FREE in seconds. Since October I have joined Classroom 2.0 and EduBloggerWorld. These are real social networks that I have become involved and connected in and after participating for several months I can confidently raise my hand that I belong to and participate in a social network. And...not only am I a participant, today, I am excited to share that I launched my own social network called The Innovative Educator. Please join my network where I hope we will focus on educating innovatively through the lens of content areas i.e. literacy, science, social studies, etc. etc. There are many reasons this is important to me. Below are five of them.

Five Reasons Innovative Educators Should Participate in Social Networks

1-Connecting to Digital Natives: Will Richardson is right. We need to be deeply knowledgeable about the power of tools such as these that our students are using without us. If we know and can talk from experience about how we use social networks responsibly and effectively we gain credibility with our students.

2-Modeling for Digital Natives: As a social network participant innovative educators can share their site and refer to how it affects their learning often with students. This enables students to know that they do have something in common with their teachers and see smart ways their teachers are using their networks.

3-Interacting with Digital Natives: One of my favorite quotes is we need to replicate in the classroom the world in which our students are living. After getting some experience innovative educators can create social networks for their students to participate in and can then actually “teach” social networks and help students make connections between what they are doing in an educational social network and how these lessons can be transferred to their personal social network interactions.

4-Developing Your Personal Learning Network: A social network is a great place to begin and develop your own personal learning network of colleagues with whom you can connect, share, and learn from anytime and anywhere.

5-Share Your Own Reason: How do you see social networking being used to enhance innovative educating? Share your ideas by commenting on this post.

Are you convinced? If so, please come on over and join my network. Membership free. Just click on The Innovative Educator Social Network. And if you have a network or have experience using social networking to educate innovatively please share by commenting on this post.

More information
* Join my social network.
* Create a Ning Network for your own class, group, project, or event
* Discover how to use Ning in Education
* Trial program details - free networks for educators (ad-free)
* Social Networks in Education - A listing of Social Networks in Education and Articles
* Embrace MySpace: Safe Uses of Social Networking Tools - An AP/Teacher's advice for using social networking with students.
*Creating & Connecting: Research and Guidelines on Online Social and Educational Networking,”
is a report based on three surveys: an online survey of nearly 1,300 9- to 17-year-olds, an online survey of more than 1,000 parents, and telephone interviews with 250 school districts leaders who make decisions on Internet policy. The complete NSBA report, is available on NSBA’s Web site at http://www.nsba.org/site/view.asp?CID=63&DID=41340.
*Facebook and Education - A library media specialists peak into how their district is using Facebook.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

CIS 339 Brings Professional Learning Communities Into The 21st Century

I'm always on the lookout for schools that are effectively putting smart teaching and learning 2.0 practices in place. CIS 339 is one of those schools that has become a pioneer in embedding 21st Century tools into the way they do business to enhance education. To start, as leadership expert Michael Fullan says, you need to get the right people in the right seats on the bus. The school’s committed leader, Jason Levy did just that by hiring Dan Ackerman as his assistant principal who as a former technology coach was prepared to support this effort. He also put Christina Jenkins in place as a full-time technology coach who among other accomplishments put a strong online infrastructure in place in addition to providing ongoing coaching and PD support. Additionally he retained Patrick Wagner an Aussie educational consultant with a strong technology background. He also purchased a 21st Century reading and social studies curriculum from Teaching Matters that includes onsite support from staff developers to support the program. Finally, he worked to secure teachers that were enthusiastic about using 21st Century tools in the classroom and excited to be teaching in a school where every teacher had a laptop, projector and internet access to support instruction. Mr. Levy didn't have a miracle budget either. He had the same support on hand as most other NYC schools. He just ensured that the resources and staff he secured and purchases he made had innovative educational abilities at the core.

At the start of 2007/2008 Mr. Levy's dream team got to work fast and have accomplished a tremendous amount in one year. His tech coach is a Google Certified Educator and used a lot of this knowledge to integrate Google in the work they do to enhance teaching and learning. Alongside Mr. Ackerman and Mr. Wagner she worked with Google to set up accounts for the entire student and teacher body which enabled them to use the suite of free Google products including gmail for staff and student email, Google Collaborative Docs and Spreadsheets to enhance tracking of student data, Google Groups to share plans and resources, Google talk to stimulate instant messaging conversation and accountable communication and Blogger to provide blogs (that can be translated into multiple languages) for the school, principal, staff and students. You can visit their blogs at:

Using Google as a platform was a powerful choice because it gave staff and students a common platform and a single sign on solving the “I forgot my username/password” issue. They also use wikis for lesson planning collaboration and more.

The combination of 21st Century tools and a 21st Century-minded staff have enabled C.I.S. 339 to develop an innovative online and onsite Professional Learning Community that is embedded in all teaching and learning at the school. The school’s leaders, coaches, and their educational consultant uses 21st Century tools to model 2.0 support for teachers and students that they are able to transfer into their teaching and learning practice. In addition to onsite mentoring and professional development, teachers also have access to online support via tools such as Skype (free online voice and video conferencing), gmail, chat, online groups (e.g. Google Groups), online videos, and through collaboration and feedback on Google Docs and blogs. For an example of this you can watch Mr. Wagner’s UStream video message to class 165 in response to the work they are doing as they blog about “The Outsider.” This relationship encourages teachers to adopt these technologies more quickly, and caters to teachers' needs as the improved flexibility means that teachers utilize the mentoring and support services outside of school hours when much of their planning is taking place.

C.I.S. 339 has spent a lot of time this year ensuring teachers are very comfortable with embedding these tools into their work. The more they are embedded in the day to day of how they do business the easier it becomes for teachers to make connections as to how they can enhance student learning with technology.

This will be a big focus next year as Mr. Levy prepares his school for becoming a 1:1 environment through a Capital funded NYC Dept of Education program. He is also piloting using the low-cost Asus Eee Laptops which have the potential to provide a sustainable one-laptop-per-child reality necessary for successful 21st Century teaching and learning. I look forward to seeing how the C.I.S. becomes a true School 2.0 once they have all the ingredients in place next year.

Click here to read an email from the school's tech coach explaining the process the school went through to put these structures in place.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ten 21st Century Education Quotes I Carry With Me

Here are ten 21st Century education quotes that I've heard over the past few years that I liked enough to save in my Blackberry so I could look at, remember, and share. These are ten quotes that have been of value to me and I believe will be of value to other innovative educators as well. If I remember or know where they came from, I've indicated it below.


1-Technology is only technology to those who were born before it.
2-We need to prepare students for THEIR future not OUR past-Ian Jukes, educator and Futurist.
3-Teachers need to stop saying, “Hand it in,” and start saying “Publish It.” Alan November
4-We have moved from “know what” learning to “know where” learning.
5-The largest number of podcasts in education are about Podcasts in education.-Marco Torres.
6-Kids DO want to learn, but schools get in the way.
7-Digital Media enables us to build more stages for our kids to express themselves. - Marco Torres
8-What gets us in trouble is not what we don't know. It's what we know that just ain't so. Mark Twain.
9-We need to replicate in the classroom the world in which students are living.
10-If we teach today the way we were taught yesterday we aren't preparing students for today or tomorrow.

A well formed quote, like a picture, is a great method for painting detailed concepts. I love collecting these quotes and knowing how they’ve affected others. If one of these quotes affects you or if there is a quote that has affected you that you’d like to share please do by commenting on this post.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Recommended Viewing for Innovative Educators

As an Innovative Educator I have an insatiable need to read, see and hear about new things all the time and on demand. I have found a tremendous resource to satisfy this desire at http://www.ted.com/ which posts fresh TedTalks weekly. Ted Talks are inspired talks by the world’s greatest thinkers and doers designed to bring inspiration, innovation and new perspectives on the world and on ourselves. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design and started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader. The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes). TED.com makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free. Almost 200 talks from the archive are now available, with more added each week. The videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.

For an Innovative Educator (especially a city educator who spends a lot of time on subways and buses) the 18 minute format is just fantastic for personal learning. Additionally, the videos are all segmented into smaller pieces just perfect for sharing when trying to inspire students when delivering instruction.

Here are The Innovative Educators 6 picks to begin your TED experience.

Freakonomics Fans
In an eye-opening talk -- presented before the publication of Freakonomics --
Steven Levitt presents one of the book's more fascinating analyses. Sifting data collected through first-person interviews with a Chicago drug gang, he shows that drug dealing is not at all a quick route to riches. And yes, a drug gang does have a org chart.


Whole New Mind Fans
Neuroanatomist
Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened -- as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding -- she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.


Jane Goodall Fans
Traveling from Ecuador to Africa,
Jane Goodall takes the audience on an ecological journey, discussing highlights and low points of her experiences in the jungle. She shows how progress is helping research (DNA analysis) and hurting the environment (clear-cutting). And she draws a dozen parallels between primate and human behavior, making the point that we really aren't all that different. Our big advantage, she says, is the ability to communicate with sophisticated spoken language -- yet, sadly, we are abusing this power and destroying the planet. She urges the TED audience to behave differently, and use their higher powers to correct the planet's course.

Tipping Point and Blink Fans
In this witty monologue, Malcolm Gladwell follows the career of a food industry consultant who uncovered a key secret to what eaters like. Running huge focus groups to find customers' truest tastes, Gladwell's hero draws a radical conclusion, an epiphany that has defined food marketing ever since. Note: The theme of the 2004 conference was "The Pursuit of Happiness" -- hence the talk's quirky presence.

Nicholas Negroponte (One Laptop Per Child - OLPC) Fans
Nicholas Negroponte lays out the details of his nonprofit One Laptop Per Child project. Speaking just days after relinquishing his post as director of the MIT Media Lab, he announces that he'll pursue this venture for the rest of his life. He takes us inside the strategy for building the "$100 laptop," and explains why and how the project plans to launch "at scale," with millions of units distributed in the first seven countries. "This is not a laptop project; it's an education project," he says.


You may also want to check out: Nicholas Negroponte: From 1984, 4 predictions about the future (3 of them correct)ttp://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/230

Wii, Interactive Whiteboard, Touchscreen Fans
Johnny Lee demos his amazing Wii Remote hacks, which transform the $40 game piece into a digital whiteboard, a touchscreen and a head-mounted 3-D viewer. A multi-ovation demo from TED2008.

The TED mission involves a passionate belief in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. We are fortunate they have built this clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.

Another amazing thing about Ted.com contribution is that viewers have an opportunity to share their thoughts about each video because they provide a commenting/discussion feature associated with each video. TEDTalks have tremendous potential to inspire innovative educators everywhere. I invite you to share how videos such as these have inspired your teaching and learning by posting comments on such experiences here. For more great videos visit The Innovative Educator's Video Recommendations.

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For more information visit 25 Incredible TED Talks for Educators

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Professional Development for Learner 2.0

I am at the four-hour Intel® Teach to the Future Leadership Forum designed to guide instructional leaders as they support and promote effective integration of technology in classrooms. The Intel leadership forum is worthwhile and 20th Century leaders will get a lot out of it, but to better address the needs of the 21st Century leader it needs updating, an infusion of some obvious Web 2.0 tools, more modeling of best practices for the 2.0 Leader and it falls into the common education trap of talking the talk, but still struggling to walk the 1.0 walk.

I do not believe this is unique to the Intel Institute. It is prevalent in conferences, forums, presentations, and professional development proclaiming to be for 21st Century learners. Will Richardson reflected a similar sentiment at NECC 2007 when he said,

The total irony of the moment was that in this “Web 2.0″ and “School 2.0″ session that was supposed to celebrate the uses of the tools, the random notes were being taken on screen in a very un Web 2.0 tool called Microsoft Word. No transparency. No collaboration. No thought to sharing.--The Problem in a Nutshell…The UnProblem in a Nutshell

Here are five thoughts and suggestions I have about how today's experience in particular, but professional development in general, can be more meaningful for the 2.0 learner.

  • Provide Digital Materials
  • Provide An Overview of Digital Materials and Use 21st Century Formats to Share
  • Demonstrate the Power of 21st Century Tools to Capture Opinions and Feedback
  • Ask 2.0 Questions
  • Use Web 2.0 Tools to Capture Work, Facilitate Learning and Best Practices, and Keep Conversations Going

Provide Digital Materials

Materials should be digitally accessible BEFORE the session begins. Not doing so is no longer acceptable in classes for 21st Century leaders and learners. I see this as poor planning. At the very least 2.0 learners should receive the session handbook and PowerPoint in a digital format that can accept notes (i.e. not in a pdf that you can not take notes on). This enables 2.0 learners to get beyond needlessly copying down what their PowerPoint slides say, and allow them to get to the thinking faster by actually recording higher-order thoughts and ideas on these slides. Taken to another level, these PowerPoint slides could be a Google collaborative presentation allowing for shared note taking and collaborative meaning-creation on the slides. The simple introduction of a digital handbook and PowerPoint would enable facilitators to model best practices of how to write and take deeper notes on the digital documents and the added bonus is the learners won’t have to carry the materials around, but rather these tools are available anytime, anywhere, on demand along with their other digital resources. And, who are we kidding. If we don’t have these materials digitally, and accessible on demand in seconds through a search, they end up in a pile somewhere along with all the other conference material.


Provide An Overview of Digital Materials and Use 21st Century Formats to Share
Participants received a CD with supplemental materials that come with the book for participants to take a look at later. As a facilitator with more than a decade of experience teaching and supporting others in doing so, I can tell you that most participants rarely go back and upload these materials. For real impact the materials distributed should be explored and used in class. A great way to do this is to begin the class with an introduction to what is on the CD, where to find the materials and each time a document is being used the class should be shown where to access it.

The other issue I had is that while CDs are inexpensive to distribute, I would recommend against using a 20th Century format to distribute materials in an outdated medium such as CDs. Many laptops (and most in the room) have eliminated CD drives to reduce weight and instead people use usb drives or rely on material being downloadable from the internet.


Demonstrate the Power of 21st Century Tools to Capture Opinions and Feedback

The forum began with a paper PowerPoint survey about leader’s attitudes, experience, and behaviors. My facilitators happened to create a digital survey so we had the opportunity to see the data from participants across NYC, but I was disappointed that this wasn't the way Intel designed it. They solely had a paper version for discussion and are not capturing this data which would not only be beneficial for Intel, but it would be of great interest for Principals to see how they compared among their peers. Student response systems are the big rage. While they are great for a classroom without laptops, a classroom full of laptops should be using these free and powerful survey tools that enable facilitators to capture and instantly analyze learner’s feedback.


Ask 2.0 Questions

This was a future leadership forum but they were asking 20th Century questions. While there is value in seeing participants answers to 1.0 questions, the future leaders should be asked 2.0 questions as well if for nothing more than enabling them to be aware that they need to be aware. The outdated questions included questions like what do you use word processing programs for? I don’t even know people who say word processing anymore. And how does a texting, social networking, berrying, blog commenting, emailing, wiki-ing, tweet trying, collaborative doc writing, IMer really answer that when most of her writing is not even within a “word processing” program. So 20th Century! A better question is, "how much of your writing is done digitally?"

While I may be over dramatizing the word processing question, my problem was the survey was completely devoid of any 2.0 questions like: How often do you comment on a blog or discussion board? Do you have an active blog? Do you belong to any social networks? Do you Tweet? Do you have an avatar? Do you play any MMORPGs? Do you have a wiki that you created or use frequently to work efficiently? Do you listen to podcasts? How many blogs do you subscribe to in an RSS reader?


While many leaders may not know what we’re talking about, they should know there is a whole lot of questions that they need to be able to answer, because many of their teachers and even more of their students can. Questions such as those can stimulate thinking and potentially shake up their minds to what they could/should be exploring.


Use Web 2.0 Tools to Capture Work, Facilitate Learning and Best Practices, and Keep Conversations Going

I also was disappointed because while there were ample opportunities to enhance the forum with web 2.0 tools the only one that was used was Google docs which was something added in by the facilitator and not already embedded in the class. The forum would have been a wonderful opportunity to introduce discussion boards, blogs, social networks, etc. that principals could tap into to begin building a global personal learning network with other leaders who have participated in this work. It also would engage them in a community where they could stay connected to like-interested colleagues, and keep the conversation going.


Another avenue I felt would have been enhanced with Web 2.0 tools was in the creation of personal action plans. Each leader has their own, but they don't have the option to look at exemplars, share, view, and learn from others, comment, connect or discuss. If they had an option to post the documents, share and get feedback, this would be an incentive to go back to the work and would make for smart and obvious follow up conversation with individuals supporting the implementation of the plan including those within a school and those outside of the school.


Final Thoughts

While I was disappointed with the un21st Century-ness of my experience today, I do support utilizing this forum for leaders because they will come away with a lot. There are a ton of valuable resources and a tremendous amount of food for thought. It is also very well-thought out, planned, and better than most PD experiences. Additionally, I found more value from this forum then I did from my three days at Microsoft’s Executive Briefing where they could not secure laptops or internet for participants and none of the aforementioned suggestions were employed. Furthermore even at NECC, and the plethora of other PD experiences I attend, facilitators can talk a good game, but they aren’t modeling what they are preaching. That said, I think it’s up to Innovative Educators to push themselves to start using the tools and practices they talk about and provide experiences that are more engaging for 2.0 Learners.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

How I Lost 20 Pounds in One Month On a Paperless Diet

I walked into my interview for a position at the Office of Instructional Technology with a huge blue wheelie bag containing 25 lbs of necessities for my literacy coach position. Inside my bag was the balanced literacy curriculum (in what was known as the big red binder), a bunch of notebooks containing the latest reading and writing workshop units of study, binders with notes on the work I was doing with teachers, and folders containing information that supported my coaching work. I was interviewed by Troy Fischer who looked up, pointed to my wheelie bag and said, "If we are to consider you for this position you'll have to get rid of that thing." I protested explaining I am the type of person who needs to have all resources at my fingertips wherever I am so I wasn't quite sure I could agree. Additionally, I explained that in my position I had no access to a laptop or digital material and though I had access to a desktop it was shared by numerous people making it difficult to reliably access. Mr. Fischer said, "Well, I'm looking to hire someone who’s ready to change all that."

A few interviews later I was offered the position and my first responsibility was to digitize all the literacy and math materials that coaches would need as part of an initiative to equip NYC Coaches with 21st Century Toolkits comprised of fully loaded Tablet laptops. I worked with all our partner organizations and was able to get a treasure trove of textbooks, resource materials, and even that big red binder in digital format. At the same time I was committed to going completely digital. It was surprisingly easy and was ultimately an absolute blessing because once I made the decision to do this I never had to worry about printing or locating a file again and I had all my work with me wherever I was.

Here are my ten steps to a successful paperless diet:
1) I converted everything I was currently working on to my laptop computer so that I had everything I needed at my fingertips at all times. As a result I would never need to print anything because I had everything with me on my laptop.
2) I didn't worry about converting and transferring everything over. I just did it per the project I was working on making this a very manageable task.
3) I committed to traveling with my 3 lb laptop which is surprisingly light when you're not carrying a lot of books, notebooks, and binders.
4) Prior to meetings I emailed the organizer with a request to receive digital copies of the materials in advance of (rather than following) the meetings.
5) I started ordering books digitally and read them using eReader allowing me to read books directly from my laptop. This was great because I could search, highlight, play the audio if I was driving or unable to read at the time, and more.
6) I joined Audible and ordered audio books. I found audio books are better for fiction rather than nonfiction.
7) I carried a usb drive with me so I could easily and instantly take digital files from others when necessary.
8) I backed up weekly
9) I started using wikis and Google Docs for my materials rather than my hard drive to make everything easy to share and collaborate on and to free up my hard drive.
10) Lastly I got a Verizon wireless card for my laptop enabling me to have internet access anywhere I had cell service. I highly recommend this purchase and believe that is the wave of the future. While this may seem a bit expensive (about $50 a month) I no longer have to pay wireless fees anywhere and there is never a hassle getting on the internet.

Within a month I was able to shed the 20 pounds of paper and could finally fit into a sleek shoulder bag. After a life-time of paper training, I have successfully been able to keep the paper off for three years now. I vow never to be bulky again.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Low Cost Computing Options That Will Enable More Educators to Consider 1-to-1 Environments

As most Innovative Educators will agree, the key to having a successful 21st Century classroom is equity and access to some key technology tools like a laptop and digital video camera. Unfortunately, cost has been a huge factor, until now. Many are familiar with Nicholas Negroponte, MIT’s visionary behind the $100 laptop. The dream has finally come to fruition as not only has Negroponte’s XO laptops been released, but he has also inspired the development of an entire class of low cost laptops ranging from $200 - $500. I will be personally testing out some of these new devices and watching how well they work in the classroom.

Here are three suggestions for Innovative Educators interested in finding out more about these devices.

1) Read New York Times Technology writer David Pogue’s review or watch the video.

2) Read about a class that is using the XO laptops in the classroom to enhance writing in the OLPC Blog from Teaching Matters, a New York City-based educational technology professional development organization.

3) Go straight to the websites of three of the leading providers of low-cost laptops.






With the advent of these low-cost learning tools, teaching in a one-to-one environment will become more and more prevalent. I look forward to learning along side other innovative educators the terrific ways teaching and learning are enhanced with low-cost computing and hope that some readers of The Innovative Educator will share their experiences.

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Post Thoughts
(What I've thought or found after publishing the post)

4/21/2008: Looks like HP has also entered the game. See http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080408/ap_on_hi_te/hewlett_packard_small_laptops.

5/16/2008: Rumor has it OLPC may be releasing a windows version. Here's the photo from Tech Crunch. Click on the picture for the full story...and more interestingly, comments.

5/19/2008 - From the New York Times:
Microsoft Joins Effort for Laptops for Children

After a years-long dispute, Microsoft and the computing and education project One Laptop Per Child said Thursday that they had reached an agreement to offer Windows on the organization’s computers.

Microsoft long resisted joining the ambitious project because its laptops used the Linux operating system, a freely distributed alternative to Windows.

http://www.blogger.com/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/16/technology/16laptop.html?ref=education

See what people are saying at Classroom 2.0

General 1 to 1
General Sublaptops
OLPC / XOs
Asus
Classmate



Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Educating Innovatively

When I began teaching in 1997 I was shocked when I was approached to provide professional development for my district on using computers in the classroom. I was surprised because I was a first-year teacher and couldn’t imagine that I was the person the school district would select as best suited to teach other teachers how to use effectively use technology in the classroom. Paul Reese was the technology coordinator for the district at that time and informed me that I was one of the few teachers he knew of that was putting technology tools to use in the classroom and he promised me I had a lot to offer. I realize now the importance of a leader and mentor to see more in you then you see in yourself and am happy that I took him up on the challenge. That year I taught teachers how to create class websites, publish historical newspapers and travel brochures to support social studies instruction, actively watch video to support content area instruction, use excel to support math and more.

I realized that what made me the right person for the job was that I was always interested in trying out new technologies and learning new things to make teaching and learning more exciting. In a “World is Flat,” “Whole New Mind,” “Change or Die,” climate that we are teaching in, I’ve found my ability to Adapt or Become Irrelevant not only useful, but necessary. If you're reading this, I imagine you either are or are open to being the same way. As such, I am anxious to share the technology tools that I love and use with others.

These are the my current can't-live without tools.
1) Wikispaces
2) Google Docs
3) Skype

These are three tools in which I use as more of a consumer than a producer and want to begin using more actively.
1) NING
2) Twitter
3) UStream

You can learn more about these tools at The Innovative Educator wiki where you’ll find the url, description, tips, and information on learning to use each tool. I know there are many other innovative educators out there. I invite you to share your favorite tools and those you want to begin using more actively.
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