Monday, June 23, 2008

The Workaround for Setting Up Accounts for Students Even if You Don't Have Their Email

Have you ever wanted to set up accounts for students on the web (i.e. Wikispaces, Ning, etc.) where email was required but you don't have the emails?

This came up when I was facilitating a recent class and we took advantage of the teachable moment with the help of Ellen, one of the participants. As an ed tech specialist and practicing classroom innovative educator, she has plenty of experience with this issue and confidently walked us through the process. Knowing that other Innovative Educators would find this helpful too. I asked, and she agreed, to write a blog laying out each step in the process called When you absolutely, positively need your kids to have an email account, but don’t want one that works, posted at her blog: I think, therefore I am. I'm sure you'll find this and other posts on her blog quite informative.

Thanks Ellen!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Keep Your Students Connected This Summer with A Social Network

Looking for a way for students to stay connected this summer, why not start a social network? This gives you the opportunity to get learn what it's like to run a social network and provides a way for students and teachers to stay connected.

You could start groups and discussions led by teachers running (or thinking of running) clubs or extracurricular activities and the teachers in charge could lead those discussions and moderate the groups. The librarian may want to start discussions or a group about reading and books. She could promote the summer reading list and generate book discussions right from the site. Your tech coach or teacher may want to start a group for the school's student support team where they can share great tech tips, tools, ideas and maybe even connect regarding doing some interesting trips to places of interest over the summer (i.e. Sony Wonder Technology Lab, or Museum of Television & Radio). Your Physical Education teacher may want to start some groups for different sport teams at the school.

The network could generate some excitement over the summer about the new year and you may find students have interests or thoughts you never considered. How about a general discussion for students to share what kind of clubs they would most want to join. Challenge students to come up with online groups and initiate discussions. Have each student invite their parents into their social network.Not only would a school social network be beneficial to provide an anytime/anywhere on-demand safe community for your students, it would also provide teachers and parents with experience using a social network that could translate into more informed conversations with students about their own social network and online life.

Here is more information if you are interested in starting a social network for your students.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

5 Easy Ways for Innovative Educators to Engage Students Until The End of The School Year

Looking for some innovative ideas to breathe life into the school day for you and your students even with thoughts of sunshine and summer vacation dancing in their heads? Here are some free, fun, and easy ideas for using 21st Century tools guaranteed to keep students engaged.

Create a Social Network for Your Students

Capitalize on your student's interest in social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook and create a social network learning environment for your students. Innovative educators are coming up with all sorts of creative ideas to use social networks to engage students. How about creating a social studies network with historical characters? Students can select a historical character to portray, create their personal page for that character, engage in discussions, and join groups that character would be involved in. Ning is allowing educators to create free educational social networks. For more ideas about using social networks in education visit Ning in Education. If you've never participated in a social network get the experience of participating by joining The Innovative Educator Social Network. This will enable you to have a better idea of how you can incorporate a social network into your teaching and about the value of Social Networking for Innovative Educators.


Make a Voki to breath some life into literacy. Have your students take a piece of writing they have done and create a Voki to record their work. Students can also enter short pieces of writing and pick a Voki voice to read their work. You can have students upload Vokis to any blog, website, or any online location. Click the play arrow on this Voki for an example.

Get a Voki now!

Take Classes

Most school districts have Instructional Technology departments that offer professional development opportunities for teachers throughout the year. Try to find out what your district has to offer. New York City teachers have dozens of classes available to them by simply visiting the online registration site and selecting the “iTeach/iLearn” or “Instructional Technology” department. There, as in other districts, teachers can enroll in classes showing them how to use tools like Google Earth, wikis, blogs, digital documentaries, SmartBoards and more designed to support innovative educators.

A terrific way to come up with engaging ideas for enhancing education is to tap into your personal learning network. The next two posts are ideas from two of my top personal learning network contributors The Techomnivore and The Innovative Parent.
Infuse Life into Your Lessons with Digital Gaming

The Techominivore shares a survey performed by Project Tomorrow that says that educational gaming is one technology that students use most frequently and that gaming is the one emerging technology that students would like to see used in their classrooms. Only one in ten teachers use gaming in the classroom which starkly reveals the disconnect between students and adults about the power of gaming. He poses the question, especially to the classroom teachers, are you incorporating enough gaming in your teaching? Are you? If you are not, read some recommendations from The Techominivore by visiting his entries on the Technology & Learning's Guide to Digital Learning blog.

Have You Heard of Blurb?
The Innovative Parent blog shares a fantastic resource for bringing authentic book publishing to the masses called Blurb. This allows users to download bookmaking software for free and publish these books at professional quality for purchase by real audiences for about $12 each. Amazing! You can read some of the The Innovative Parent’s ideas about using these resources to publish class yearbooks, poems, and more here.

These are just a few ideas innovative educators can implement to engage students. If (or when) you have experience implementing some of these ideas or when you have more ideas to share, please comment on this post.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Power of 21st Century Teaching and Learning Brought to Life at Bronx Middle School CIS 339’s Open House

Today I had the pleasure of attending an open house at CIS 339, a middle school in the Bronx that shared how they were using 21st Century learning tools to engage students and staff in all content areas across multiple platforms (iBooks, Asus Eee PCs, iPods, Dell laptops, SMARTBoards).

At the helm was the school’s technology coach, Christina Jenkins who did an incredible and professional job of putting this event together. Ms. Jenkins put together a program for the day that included the opportunity for visitors to see how a variety of tools such as blogs, digital video, SMARTBoards, Garageband, Google Docs, Google Maps, SMARTNotebook, and more were used in lessons to enhance instruction. Pulling off the event was not a difficult feat since the staff was showcasing the work that occurs on an ongoing basis at the school, and inviting the outside community to take a peak is what made this event special. Under the leadership of principal Jason Levy and AP Dan Ackerman, Ms. Jenkins with support from Cyber Consultant Pat Wagner spent the year putting the structures and professional development and support in place that was necessary to enable visitors to walk into an environment where it was instantly evident that 21st Century tools have transformed the way teaching and learning occur. This has become ingrained into the fabric of the school to the point that this is just the way they do business. What has become second nature to the school in a short time is something that few other educators, administrators, or community members have seen or could even imagine. In addition to taking visitors on a learning walk to see how technology was used in lessons, the visit also included a comprehensive presentation that provided an overview of how they are enhancing teaching and learning with technology.

While talking about, reading, and attending professional development are all valuable endeavors, there is little else as powerful as seeing this in action to open other’s minds to the possibilities and clear many fears and misconceptions people have about using 21st Century tools. You could see an example of this as we entered one classroom that was using wikis. Visitors were able to see how this teacher was using wikis to enhance instruction. Many people did not know that wikis could be used as a free content management system full with the ability to have unlimited file storage, and allow students and teachers to have moderated and private discussions about their work. To many, wikis had only the association of Wikipedia and they saw them as simply a tool to collaboratively write entries about various topics.

Showcasing A 21st Century School is A Win-Win
CIS 339 invited educators and administrators interested in using 21st Century tools from across the city. Not only did CIS 339 gain a tremendous amount by hosting this open house, they also gave a tremendous amount back. Hosting this open house provided staff and students an opportunity to share and celebrate the great work they have been doing all year. It also provided them with a realization that they are engaging in 21st Century education in unique ways that others are interested in and hungry to learn more about. Additionally, by inviting the public to this open house they make a clear case that demonstrates how 21st Century infrastructures such as ubiquitous computing and laptops for all is transforming education. This type of showcase also informs the way schools can be doing business. For instance visitors could see that they have transformed the work they do using mostly a full suite of free applications including email, word processing, presentation software, excel etc. They really do not need to buy any applications and don’t need a server for students to access their work anytime/anywhere. Google serves this need for them. Taking note of things like this informs visitors in ways that will transform the way they operate and the school makes a case for ongoing support and funding to keep 21st education going. Here are some other lessons learned.

Web 2.0 Tools Enable Ongoing Feedback and Dialogue for Teacher Professional Development
Visitors also were able to see how the school uses collaborative documents to simplify and enhance administrative duties such as providing teacher feedback and professional development. All the school administrators and coaches have a feedback sheet that is shared with teachers. The feedback language is consistent across the school. When visiting a class feedback can be instantly provided for the teacher and the sheet is created in such a way that it is interactive and the teachers can respond to coaches and others so that dialogue and coaching can occur long after the lesson is over.

Asus Eee PCs in Action
CIS 339 is among the first schools to use the new Asus Eee PCs in the classroom. They have a couple hundred devices. A visit to the school enabled attendees to see first hand their effectiveness. I spoke to a couple teachers and several students who were very happy with the devices. Despite the reaction of some adults, the kids did not take issue with the keyboard or screen size. Many of them said they preferred the small size of the device and it fit their needs well. The class I visited keep all their work in Google Docs and that is where all student work is stored. All students share their documents with their teacher and the teacher explained how much easier it was for students to manage their work and for the teacher to find work from students because he could get all student’s work by simply typing their name in the search field of his Google Docs site.

Cyber Consultant
CIS 339 truly embraces and models 21st education practices in much of what they do including with cyber consultant Pat Wagner who is based in Australia. While Pat does spend time across the year when he is physically at CIS 339, he also stays in constant connection and contact with students and staff. He does this in many ways including through virtual lessons and messages he provides to students through videos embedded into blogs that they can comment on as well as Skype online video conferencing professional development for teachers. This really drives home the idea of The Flat Classroom as students and teachers can see first-hand how with technology there really are no more barriers to connecting with experts, friends, and others anytime, anywhere, around the world.

Final Thoughts
I was already impressed with how CIS 339 Brought Professional Learning Communities Into The 21st Century. This open house enabled others to see how they accomplish this as well as engage in other transformative educational activities. As a result of this sharing, I am confident the practice of other educators will be transformed and will benefit all who have the opportunity to be involved. What impressed me most was how 21st Century tools were seamlessly embedded into the work they do at the school. It wasn't something that was spoken about it was just there. Like air to a human, it seemed the students and staff would only notice the technology if it was taken away. This school could not operate as it does if not for its leader, Jason Levy, who put together a strong team (tech coach-Ms. Jenkins, innovative AP-Mr. Ackerman, tech savvy consultant-Mr. Wagner, 21st century instructional dean-Mr. Prinstein, and, of course, a staff of dedicated teachers and administrators to support this work. Equally important is Mr. Levy leads by example by creating and integrating these practices and structures into all he does and all he expects from his students and staff.

Visit these links for more information:




Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Finally, A True Reading, Writing, Publishing Machine - XO 2010

Unlike some other laptops, you certainly could not accuse the new OLPC XO of being a business device thrown into a school. With its new open book design comprised of two touch-enabled screens that can transform into a keyboard when placed on its side, this is a true reading/writing/publishing machine. Placed face open not only does the XO offer two usable screens, but it also becomes a device where two people can work collaboratively-one on each screen.

When I saw the new XO and read the
reviews I reflected on a conversation I had years back with Teachers
College Reading and Writing Project Director Lucy Calkins as I attempted to convince her of the importance of laptops in the classroom. She said, "Why on earth would I buy laptops for each student? If I was going to spend $1500 per child, I'd rather purchase a library of books for each of them." I retorted saying a laptop is like providing every student with a vast library of books. I think I may have moved her thinking a bit, but while she agreed she could see how laptops could be a valuable coaching tool for her staff (topic for another post), there was still a leap to be made in convincing her of their usefulness as a student learning tool.

Like many literacy experts Lucy thinks of paper bound books when she thinks of reading, and paper notebooks when thinking of writing. At the same time numerous studies indicate that today’s digital native students, when given the choice, spend a great deal more time using computers to read and write than they do using traditional paper books and notebooks. The new XO laptop appears to be uniquely designed to bridge this gap between paper-trained adults and today’s millennial students by offering a device that looks and feels like it is designed for digital native reading, writing and publishing in a way digital immigrants can appreciate. It’s finally a device that brings to life the concept that this really is a tool positioned to bring an infinite amount of books and other reading materials right into the hands of students. In his, "Can the $100 Laptop Change the World?" interview with Laptop magazine, OLPC's Nicholas Negroponte shares that with this device, suddenly, a child has access to millions of books. Even more important, children can collaborate, can make things and can learn by doing.” As a former literacy coach and library media specialist I can tell you the countless hours I spent helping teachers acquire classroom libraries for general reading, for reading in the content areas, for reading by interest, etc. We would write grants, go to book fairs, beg, steal, borrow, type books in word processors, etc. etc. This was a lot of work and at the end we still struggled to have enough books to meet the needs of a class. It was a turn off for many in moving away from easy to acquire basal reading programs.

To date digital reading and writing is often neglected in literacy education, but it is where the Millennial generation chooses to spend the majority of its reading and writing time. A recent survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project revealed that student Bloggers, in addition to doing more types of writing and writing more frequently, are also among the strongest proponents of the importance of writing. This is correlated to another finding from the report stating that writing for an authentic audience motivates students to write and write well.

Since we know that many students use various technologies to communicate, a shift in the mediums we use with kids to communicate in education should follow. While I’ve already seen how XO’s can make a positive difference in the classroom, the new design appears to be even better situated to help make that shift by offering a tool that looks and feels like it’s been designed to harness the educational power of the device. What's great about the XO is it really simulates the look and experience of a book, but with a whole lot more functionality such as speaking text, instantly defining unknown words, translating text, highlighting, voice commenting, interactivity, dictionary, encyclopedia, video, and so much more.

With the new design and a targeted $75 targeted price point for 2010, the XO is sure to get hugs and kisses from even the most skeptical. This is a device that will literally push the transformation of education because with these specs and price point even the most reluctant will have to think twice. The future is now and the world of education needs to step up and start teaching to it. Now it looks like there's a device that will be a great partner in helping to make this happen. As the educational technology professional development manager for the largest school district in the U.S. you better believe that the new XO along with other low-cost laptops will transform how I work with our vendors and partners. If it is not on their radar to test out how their product or service can be implemented in schools using sub laptops, conversations will cease until they agree to explore this option. It is the responsibility of people like me to push and drive our digital immigrant educational partners to start working and thinking in 21st Century ways that will appeal to our students. Even if these partners are not comfortable doing so…our students deserve it!

More Information

First Look: OLPC XO-2 - May 2008 review from Laptop magazine featuring pictures and video.

Watch Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Laboratory, describe how the One Laptop Per Child project will build and distribute the "$100 laptop.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Simple Answer to the Question About The Arts in Education

Those who know me are aware that I tend not to be much of an outwardly emotional or sensitive person. I'm direct, to the point, have my eye on the prize and focus on doing great things and getting the work done. That's why I'm always amazed and impressed when something moves me. Over the years as I've become better acquainted with myself and what makes me tick, I've come to realize that what moves me are powerful ideas and stories...of course, but when expressed through the arts this hide-your-emotion woman is often at a loss.

When ed tech star CoolCatTeacher Tweeted this, I was compelled to take a look at what she was talking about especially since I rarely see educators Tweeting about crying.
Vicki Davis coolcatteacher Watched this video 4 times - crying - YouTube - Inspirational Video On Increasing Your Confidence! .

So, I bravely clicked on the link challenging this unknown video to move me.

Guess what? It met the challenge.

I wonder how many of our students have this or some other gift inside them waiting to be unwrapped and celebrated. How are educational institutions positioned to help that happen? Do we have what it takes to, as one judge articulated, help turn a piece of coal into a diamond? Shouldn't this be a primary focus in how we educate our students?

The back story is also of interest.
This video was brought to YouTube by
Saifuldinho who shares on his YouTube page, "My mission in life is to inspire, move and motivate teens to chase after their dreams through the power of motivational and inspirational videos. To look for where the majority of people is going, and run the other way. To hear what the majority of people are saying, and do everything but what they say! Why? Because 'The mass of men lead quiet lives of desperation.' I want to empower you to be part of the top 3% of the world. How? Visit my video blog at to get daily motivation.

Need I say more about the importance of tapping into the environments in which our students are living, thriving, and in many cases, doing wonderful and powerful work for authentic audiences. Our students can teach educators to impact the world in ways we may not even know exist.

From Saifuldinho on YouTube:

If you LOVED this video, you'll LOVE my Video Blog collection at

Need confidence to achieve the next level in life? Go to for 7 Helpful Tips To Immediately Increase Your Confidence!

In this video, watch Paul Potts sing his heart out at Britain's Got Talent Competition.

He doesn't look like a singer, he's been training all the way up to the competition but he lacks belief in himself. Now, he's sold over 2 million copies of his record - simply because he believed in himself when others didn't.

Really made me cry when he sang in this video.

Brought to you by The World's First Teen Personal Development Video Blogger