Friday, February 27, 2009

Five Innovative Ideas for Celebrating Women’s History

March is a time when many school teachers celebrate women’s history. If you are among those who are taking some time to recognize accomplishments of women, here are some ideas that innovative educators can use to enhance teaching and learning around this topic.


Have students research and select an historic woman they admire and make their own movies starring this woman in various possible settings such as 1) A meeting with President Obama 2) A discussion with classmates 3) A meeting with your school principal 4) A topic of your choosing.

Xtranormal’s mission is to bring movie-making to the people. Everyone watches movies and they believe everyone can make movies. Their revolutionary approach to movie-making builds on an almost universally held skill—typing. If your students can type something, they can turn it into a movie.

Remix America

Since the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, women have demanded their voices be heard in the social and political arenas. In celebration of Women’s History Month, Remix America will temporarily suspend the “This Day in History” featured video to highlight seminal moments in Women’s History. How better to celebrate these women than to provide students with original source material to study and discuss? Every day in March, visit the site for a new clip highlighting the speeches and essays of these rebels, these visionaries, these pioneering feminists.

Students can interact with all of these videos by using the online, free video editing tool to cut and remix these clips into Women’s History montages. Innovative educators can also visit the Remix America Blog to find featured content and commentary about why these source materials are important and relevant to today.


Interactive whiteboards are powerful tools to engage visual and auditory learners and accomplish the first rule of teaching - "First get their attention and then keep them engaged." To help to help celebrate Women’s History Month Tequiment has put together a collection of lessons, websites and a new question set for a Jeopardy-style Quiz Game. You can view these resources by visiting their blog where you will find the following resources: Women's Rights Quiz Set, Women's History - Colonial Women, Women of the Civil Rights Movements, Women's Suffrage of the 19th and 20th Centuries, Los Animales de la Granja.

Create a Social Network

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 network with women historical characters? Students can take on the persona of a historical woman they admire, create their personal page for that character with questions you and your students agree upon, engage in discussions, join groups that character would be involved in engage in chats as the woman they have selected, upload videos (which can be rated and commented on), and publish blog posts. One of the most popular social network creation tools, 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 I invite you to 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.

Note: In some school districts Ning is blocked. Create your social network remotely and work with your administrator or technology specialist to unblock the site you have created in advance.


Have students select and research a woman they know that they admire and create a Voki that either shares, 1) how she has contributed positively to women in her life 2) why it is important to recognize women’s accomplishments 3) a topic of your choosing.

Voki enables students to express themselves on the web using a talking character.

Students can customize their Voki to look like and/or take on the identity of lots of other types of human and nonhuman characters. Vokis can speak with the student’s own voice which is added via microphone, upload, or phone. Students can also choose to insert text and have the Voki use a variety of existing voices with more than a dozen different male and female accents to choose from.

Once the student Voki’s are created they can be inserted into a class blog, wiki, website, and more. From there the school community can comment on and discuss one another’s work and keep the conversation going.

These are just some ideas to inspire innovative educators in their upcoming work with students in recognizing women’s contributions. I invite readers to share your thoughts, feedback, or experience implementing one these ideas or one of your own.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Future of Education Essay

To bad many school districts won't allow the future this little girl saw exist in schools today.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Facebook for Parents

Facebook for parents (and educators) is a favorite discussion topic of mine. A Facebook friend recently shared with me a website devoted to just this topic. It is called, you guessed it...Facebook for Parents. The website presents classes, talks, seminars, and newsletters, though it is not clear from the site if there is a fee. There is a huge demand for this type of resource throughout school systems, so while this one is located in Stamford, I imagine/encourage others to pop up around the globe.

The homepage of the site has a useful article called Five Steps for Parents on Facebook which details the following:
  1. Join Facebook
  2. Friend your kids
  3. Review your kids' profile pages
  4. Review who is friends with your kids
  5. Select "More About" for your kids
These are good tips to get started. This may be a good resource for innovative educators to share with parents. If anyone has used it, please share your feedback.

The New York Times covered this at Facebook for Parents.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Invitation to Come Follow Me On The Innovative Educator!

The web is changing again and in a big way. Social networking is taking every part of the internet by storm and it’s not just social networking sites that are doing this. Newspapers, blogs, businesses, radio stations, TV shows and more are developing communities formed around those that are involved with them. It is an incredible and transformative innovation. In ways never before possible, these outlets can communicate with those following them and those following them can connect with each other.

I’ve added the same feature right here on my blog with the Blogger Following feature. This is a fantastic widget that for the first time provides authors with a new way to connect with readers and readers with each other. It’s a real conversation and not only does the author get to know their followers, but the followers get to know each other. This is a shift from social networking sites where in general people follow each other. Instead, this type of networking allows people to network and come together because of common interests. How powerful is that?

There are a number of ways this widget can be used by innovative educators*. Here are a few I've come up with.

  1. If you have a blog you are working on with your students, this provides them with more of an ownership and identity as members of this blog.
  2. Many innovative educators are working on global connection projects where they are working collaboratively with students from another school, often in the form of a blog. This gadget provides students with a deeper connection to those students.
  3. In schools where students have blogs, this gadget allows them to know more about their audience and who is following them. Innovative educators can use this tool to provide students with a deeper understanding of audience in writing and ways to build a following.

If you haven't already, please take a moment to follow this blog by selecting "Follow Me" in the right hand navigation. Invite others who may be interested to do the same. I look forward to getting to know each of you better.

*Educators working with young students should employ online safety guidelines such as not including student's last name, location, or actual picture in their profile.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

In Web Age, Library Job Gets Update - Guest Blogger: Sara Paulson-Yarovoy responds to New York Times Story

(Editor's Note: Some of my readers know I started my career as an innovative educator serving as a library media specialist. I’ll always remember the song from my childhood – If you’ve got any question at all…you can call…on the li-brar-ieeeeeeeeeeee. It is a field that I truly love and one about which I am passionate. A few years after becoming a library media specialist, I managed iQuest a program that provides professional development for librarians across New York which allowed me to connect with and strengthen ties with librarians across the city. One of those librarians was Sara Paulson-Yarovoy with whom I have worked on many projects over the past several years. Ms. Paulson has served as a library media specialist since 1998 and currently works at "47" The American Sign Language & English School in Manhattan.

Recently Paulson updated her Facebook status with, “Sara is happy for school librarians today! Thanks to NYTIMES and Stephanie!” So, I asked her to write a post about the story she was celebrating. Here it is.)

It was fabulous to read the article and see the video of NYC school librarian Stephanie Rosalia in action, as an essential part of New York Times’ conversation on the future of reading.

Elementary and middle school students are hungry for online living (listening to music, watching YouTube, chatting with friends) and Stephanie is pushing them one step further: to find interesting online reading. Librarians in NYC schools also teach kids how to download audio books to their computers or mp3 players. Your students live online and 21st century librarians know that’s where you reach them. (For examples visit TIE's Online Books).

Mirroring the research that good teachers are more important than small class size, cited by Nicolas Kristof in the NY Times op-ed Our Greatest National Shame, we witnessed that good librarians are more important than the library collection. Good librarians will create one, weed one, and shape one, from both digital and print materials, to reflect the needs of the curriculum and the interests of their students.

The NY Times article enable readers to witness a good librarian in action. The story and accompanying video provided a look into the life of a certified, committed, communicative information specialist, collaborator, and teacher--all rolled into one--working the room. She taught the metacognitive skills of finding online, print, and audio reading material that will help kids help themselves to become better readers.

Like all good librarians, Stephanie Rosalia teaches students to access and evaluate information, and create new media (webpages, podcasts, comics, animations, videos, images, and audio) to deliver their work, based on their research. Through creating media and reflecting on messages media give, kids learn media and information literacy, two sets of 21st century skills, and collaborating teachers learn along with their students.

Rich noted that Stephanie was a “rarity.” So where are all the good librarians? Where are the innovative principals and school districts that will harness their collaborative position and information expertise to create competitive 21st century schools?

Quote: More than 90 percent of American public schools have libraries, according to federal statistics, but less than two-thirds employ full-time certified librarians.

Response: Instead of pointing fingers, let’s assume it has to do with the changing nature of the delivery of information. Some schools created the computer lab instead of transforming a library of old books into a library media center, as envisioned in the seminal 1998 ALA publication Information Power: a place to access, evaluate, and create new media. In large schools, some librarians work in collaboration with a reading specialist; in others, with a technology teacher. In small schools, librarians must play dual roles, and certified librarians have the skills to do so. But the key is collaboration between specialists in a resource-rich environment. Think personnel, not resources. Students need mediated access. It is not too late!

Quote: School librarians still fight the impression that they play a tangential role.

Response: The disintermediation myth that the Internet will take the place of libraries is no longer credible, but myths die hard. The best proof is the increasing demand for information literacy instruction in higher education. As Stephanie said, if you start in middle school, it is too late. Students need a head start.

Thank you to Motoko Rich who created a great piece of media, which information specialists can use to articulate what they do and communicate the heightened role they have as teacher today. It is very timely.

Stephen Kotkin capped his recent Times business book review of “The Race Between Education and Technology,” written by Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz, with the historical truth that, “Greater investments in human capital once put Americans collectively on top of the world.”

With the new stimulus plan underway, will American educational leaders—especially in inner city schools like the ones we work in—place “greater investments” in library/information specialists who are qualified to teach K-12 students 21st century online information skills? In students across the digital divide, preparing them for daily life and work in a web-based communications world?


ALA. Information Power.

ALA. Information Power Books.

Kotkin, Stephen. Minding the Inequality Gap. Oct 8 2009.

Kristof, Nicolas D. Our Greatest National Shame. Op-Ed. Feb 14 2009.

Rich, Motoko. In Web Age, Library Job Gets Update. Feb 15 2009. (see video on the middle left).

Note to readers: If you are interested in guest blogging on The Innovative Educator, please email me a short bio, story idea, and information about the audience with whom you will share the post at

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Missing Piece in the NY Times Cellphone Story

Yesterday’s New York Times story about using cellphones in the classroom presented the usual pros and cons, but neglecting to provide a practical missing piece in the conversation. In the story, Janet Bass, a spokeswoman for the American Federation of Teachers complains,

“Texting, ringing, vibrating, cellphones so far haven’t been an educational tool. They’ve been a distraction.” Ms. Bass says it is “almost laughable that the cellphone industry is pushing a study showing that cellphones will make kids smarter,” particularly during a recession that is crushing the budgets of many school districts.

As I shared in the article Despite School Cell Phone Ban, Course Sees Them as Aid, the key is in professional development for teachers. Of course by and large, cell phones haven’t been used as an educational tool. The teachers have not received instruction on how to do so. I have collected some ideas for doing this in my post The Value of Using Cell Phones to Enhance Education and Some Concrete Ways to Do So. As I share in the post, and cellphone guru Liz Kolb often shares in her blog, a great way to have teachers see the value of cells and begin using them as an educational tool is to assign their use for homework. This way they’re not a distraction in class as teachers begin learning to use them, policies aren’t broken, and teachers can see if student achievement and engagement are increased. If you can’t imagine how these devices can be valuable, read my 20 Ideas for Using Cells in Education.

Ms. Bass also admonishes the cellphone industry for pushing devices during a recession crushing school budgets. Apparently an education in finance and economics would also serve Ms. Bass well. Cells are the most ubiquitous technology available in the U.S. This is an answer to the budget crises. No purchase necessary.

The article sites how the students used the phones for a variety of tasks, including recording themselves solving problems and posting the videos to a private social networking site, where classmates could watch. It also points to the Digital Millennial study that found that students with the phones performed 25 percent better on the end-of-the-year algebra exam than did students without the devices in similar classes. It’s a bit difficult for educators to turn the other way with results like this.

One of the readers who commented on the NY Times piece says it best,

I wonder how teachers in 1970 would respond if asked, "I have a device that is cheap enough all of your students could have one of their own that allows free access to the wealth of all human knowledge, places more information in their pocket than exists in the entire school library, the ability to communicate with almost anyone, and the ability to get answers from experts in all areas of study. Do you want your students to have these devices in your classroom?"
— Carl Anderson, Rochester, MN

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Valentines Day Break Up with Hotmail

Dear Hotmail,

Valentine's Day is upon us and as thoughts turn to love and romance, I regret to inform you that it has become unbearably evident that we're no longer right for each other. I have grown beyond our early days when just having a Hotmail was enough.

Hotmail, my decision to move on became clear as I reflected and realized you no longer prioritize me. You don't seem to care that I am getting all sorts of unwanted contact from strangers. In fact you keep beating me over the head with crude enlargement advertisements and despite my complaints you just don’t stop. I don’t mean to nag, but when we were first together, this was not the case. You watched out for me. Only those I liked and trusted got by you. But, alas no more.

Hotmail, do you remember when we first met? We were both so young and you gave yourself to me freely. Well, though I’ve never complained about this, I’ve always resented you for unexpectedly starting to require me to send you money for us to be together. Now don’t get me wrong. You weren’t my only option; however, even though G-mail promised it could hit the spot and shortly after we met I had a brief encounter Yahooing, I have remained with you.

As I reflect upon this decision I realize it is because I had become comfortable in our relationship. It was easier to just stay with you than to move on. Everyone knew me to be with Hotmail. At times I realize I stayed with you more not to upset others, rather than focusing on what was really right for me. I didn’t want to be one of those girls who hops around from mail to mail to mail, just looking for immediate satisfaction to whomever would service me for free. We all have cheap friends like this. We can never find them because we have no idea what mail they’re with and we usually resent them as they jump around between all these mails expecting us to track them down. I’m definitely not one of those femails, but, Hotmail, while I have felt committed to you, I must be honest, and tell you that though I really wasn't really looking, I have recently been swept away by another that has come to satisfy needs I didn't even know I had and has provided service to me in a way I never knew was possible. And…unlike with you, I’m not expected to pay for the pleasure.

I don’t mean to hurt you Hotmail, but this is not the life I want. While it was fine in our early days, I realize there is so much more to a relationship and though I’m coming out and directly sharing this today, I am sure you've noticed that I've become more distant. While I used to visit you every day…usually, twice, you are now lucky if I visit you once a week. That is because I am spending time with my new love which has given me so much more. You know, it’s funny, for those first few months I didn’t even see myself as having an affair with a new mail. In fact, when we first came into contact with one another, I didn’t understand much at all. I only started so I could understand my students better, and while many of my friends and colleagues thought I was too old for this, I have been talking to them and they too are seeing why we are right together.

Hotmail, since I’ve moved on, I’ve started to feel like I’ve been set free. I’m getting to see and learn so many random things that I never knew. And, believe it or not, even though I have all these friends now, I feel safer than when I’m with you. I feel like I now have the tools to easily protect myself and my privacy while connecting with so many others. In fact, I am now encouraged to find new friends, join and set up causes, share ideas, pictures, videos, articles and more in ways you never encouraged me to or helped me do. And, while I promise you, I truly was not interested in another mail at the time I started to stray, I slowly began seeing things differently. Little by little I started checking my mail here. Then I noticed it was only from my approved friends. You should also know that for Face people like me, it was helpful that every piece of mail came with a photo. Now that I have moved to a new mail I have learned something else. This mail allows me to see the whole thread of our conversation. Hotmail, you only seemed to remember the very last thing said.

I do feel bad about this Hotmail. I see how hard you've been trying to do better lately. You have a nice new look and you have been trying out some new things, but you are still awkward, clunky, and relatively expensive. Hotmail, for femails like me, you’re just no competition any more. I have moved on. But don't worry. Before you die (which might be sooner than you think) I am sure you will be happy with another who only needs a Hotmail to be satisfied.

I am hoping we can still remain friends and invite you to Facebook me! when you are ready.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Principal Complains “The PA State House wants schools to return to 1971” Just Like They’ve Done at The NYC DOE

Last night my respected colleague Chris Lehmann, principal of The Science Leadership Academy posted this on FaceBook, “PA State House wants schools to return to 1971: Bill 363,” to which he quickly received more than a dozen comments and then a couple hours later wrote this blog post, Take Action Stop Bill 363 which also elicited several replies from disturbed educators, leaders, and students and a few more blog posts and links. All the hoopla is about a new bill being passed in PA that will ban pagers, cell phones, and portable electronic devices used for recording video and audio.

There are at least two stories here.

1) The power of social media to mobilize a movement – Go Chris!!!

2) Politicians making choices such as banning electronic devices which should be left in the hands of school leaders.

So, here’s what’s happened so far, less than 12 hours later.

A blog post PA ban on "portable electronic devices" in schools and link to another Rethinking Cell Phones in School.

An email to a state representative (excerpt),

“This is a giant step backwards in a state that is at the forefront of technology use and 21st century skills through Classrooms for the Future. The only way to assure wise and responsible use of technologies is through open discussion and modeling of appropriate use, not through the banishment of technology. We stand to lose greatly if this bill is passed.”

A student responds sharing,

“As one of the students who would be affected by this (currently attending SLA) I have to say that this, like many attempts to filter schools, is an act of poor judgment on the part of the government and that by limiting our resources they also limit our education. If the teacher and students have the will to take the use of these devices in to the class room like we have at SLA then I think (and I believe many people would agree with me) that we should let them. Personally I can think of at least 5 times in the last week where having my iPod was beneficial to me and could be beneficial to other students.
#4 Patrick Woodburn on 2009-02-12 22:20 (Reply)

Here’s what Chris is saying in his post,

“The more we ban, prohibit, regulate and legislate, the less we teach. If we want students to learn how to manage their lives, we have to let them live them. This law creates more distance between our schools and the lives our kids lead. That makes it harder for us to teach, not easier. The short-term gain of keeping distractions out of our classrooms is, in my belief, far outweighed by the long-term loss of making our schools less and less relevant to kids. Fortunately, PA educators are mobilizing against the bill. There's a Facebook group and an online petition, but we can and must do more. Please, especially if you are a PA resident, call, write letters, sign the petition, send emails and pass the word. This bill will set back our schools. Help ensure its defeat.”

You can check out the Facebook group legislative letters here.

As I wrote on Chris’s blog, “You have the perfect students to lead in mobilizing a movement. I can't think of a better way to get students involved in literacy, social studies, and more. This is an issue as you know that goes far beyond PA. Get those kids making some videos and starting some virtual and physical grassroots protesting. We're looking to SLA to fight the good fight!"

#3 InnovativeEdu (Link) on 2009-02-12 21:33 (Reply)


Related Posts

The Value of Using Cell Phones to Enhance Education and Some Concrete Ways to Do So

Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote Children’s Learning.