Friday, April 30, 2010

Podcast - Cell Phones: Out of the Pocket and Into the Classroom

2010-04-29 Seedlings Chat with Lisa Nielsen and Willyn Webb

Bob Sprankle and Cheryl Oakes are joined by two advocates for educators and students using the tools they already own!
  • Willyn Webb: Author, Counselor at Alternative HS having success with cells in a district where it's banned
  • Lisa Nielsen: Creator of The Innovative Educator Blog, Tech Innovation Manager in NYC, empowering educators to harness the power of the tools in their pockets

Topics discuss include:
  • Combating the digital divide with cells
  • How I (Lisa) got in trouble for helping teachers harness the power of cells
  • Making a case for cells to schools that ban them
  • How to use cells even in schools where they are banned
  • Strategies educators can use to begin harnessing the power of cell phones in classrooms today
  • Supporting research-based strategies with cell phones
  • How to keep the conversation going

To listen to the show and read the show notes and chat click the links below:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Podcast on Harnessing the Power of Cells - Thursday, April 29

Tonight Willyn Webb and I will be on EdTechTalk discussing how you can use cell phones to enrich teaching and learning even in schools that ban them on Thursday, April 28th. This is a subject that I have gotten in trouble for, discussed on my blog and about which I am writing a book

Readers who are interested in Harnessing the power of cell phones to engage learners and enrich teaching should plan to tune in.

Here's what we'll be discussing:
  • Combating the digital divide with cells
  • How I got in trouble for helping teachers harness the power of cells
  • Making a case for cells to schools that ban them
  • Ideas for using cells even in schools where they are banned
  • Strategies educators can use to begin harnessing the power of cell phones in classrooms today
  • Supporting research-based strategies with cell phones
  • How to keep the conversation going
I hope you'll join us live at 7:30 pm eastern standard time. Log on to 15 minutes prior to ensure you are able to log on. We look forward to connecting soon.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Aren't Schools Supposed to Help Students Change the World?

Last week I taught a class to teachers who, like many of those I work with, accept that not only students are banned at school from using powerful online tools like Facebook, Twitter, etc., but that they, the teachers, are also not allowed to harness the power of these tools.

What message are we sending to teachers and the students who we are teaching when we tell them, not only will we not teach you to use these powerful tools that are critical for success in the 21st century, but we will not let you use them as part of your educational experience?

Teachers do need to stand up and speak up, but if they don't, fortunately there's student's like the 18 year old New Jersey Student Who Uses Facebook to Organize Massive High School Walkout to protest recent education cuts through a call to action on Facebook.

While I applaud this student for leading the way, it's a shame that schools have to get out of her way as she does so.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Display Student's Thoughts & Ideas with Cell Phones & Wiffiti

Wiffiti ( allows students to submit a text message to an online bulletin board. Messages can also be submitted to Poll Everywhere, but the Wiffiti board is large and animated and students love the fake names it assigns to their posts. This easy-to-use tool enables your students to use the same technology that is viewed by thousands at large-scale events such as concerts, gallery openings, fundraisers, inauguration events, and political conventions. It is also used extensively in digital signage networks ranging from huge jumbotrons in places like Times Square to thousands of screens in cafes, entertainment centers and even churches.

You can try it out for yourself here by texting in ideas for using cell phones to learn.

Wiffiti allows you to bring this exciting technology to any student with access to text messaging for free. In short Wiffiti publishes real time messages to screens anywhere on any screen and this can be a tremendously powerful educational tool.

Ideas for Using Wiffiti with Students

1) Have students share their ideas regarding an acceptable use policy.
2) Have students share hypothesis about a subject the class is studying.
3) At the conclusion of a unit, have students share what they have learned.
4) Have weekly shout outs to recognize student achievement.

Here's How to Get Started

  • Students don't need to sign in. They just text their answer to the Wiffiti code you share with them.
  • Teachers can simply sign in by clicking "Log in with Facebook" or setting up an account with a username, email, and password.
  • Once signed in select, "Make a Screen" (
  • Give your screen a Title and select publish.
  • You will be given a url and text that users can use to contribute to your screen.

Monday, April 26, 2010

School Wars

In a world so far yet so close, a battle lurks with in, rocking the very core of our community. We always suspected something strange was transpiring at Burrhus Frederic Skinner High School. Horrible teachers roam the halls and somehow superb test grades persist. Millions of dollars are poured into this school yet the school foundation continues to crumble. Leaky faucets, crumbling walls, and trash 80’s are hallmarks of the school culture. Without cause students are mysteriously transferred to juvenile delinquent programs and out of state schools all in the name of propping up graduation rates!

Where are the wireless classrooms? Where are the advanced placement courses? Where is the student government? Why are we still using World Book Encyclopedias in the year 2010? The football field looks like a morgue. The basketball court… What basketball court? Nevertheless, like herds of sheep parents keep sending their students to this beleaguered school. After all… What other school services over 5,000 students? What other school can proudly claim that no act of student on student violence has occurred on school property in over 5 years? Principal Wallstone attributes her success to her policy of the iron fist. For over 30 years she has micromanaged every aspect of the school and the results speak for themselves. However, critics have deemed her methods cruel and controversial. A goon squad known as the “Skinner Reinforcements” squash the dissenters via verbal intimidation and other unscrupulous means.

However, there is hope. A group of savvy parents are using the Internet and other resources to review classified records. They want to know what the designated earmarks are being spent on. It seems that some incidents are not being reported. Parents are yearning for change and their children are demanding a school program that makes sense.

In the meantime, the old guard is up to its tricks. From falsifying reports to faux publicity events, they don’t miss a beat. The principal has also dispatched the use of spies to stop the infiltrators. Spies sit on the school board, Civic Community Groups, and lobby city hall making sure the status quo is never questioned. Infiltrators mysteriously disappear courtesy of the “Skinner Reinforcements”. Enter the world of School Wars! Everything you thought to be sacred is not and that may not be a bad thing.

Blogs Should Promote...Not Stunt- Conversation

While I wanted to give kudos to the Digital Literacy blog for sharing my post about Why Social Media Curriculum is Critical in Schools and give a thumbs up to those below who commented...I couldn't. Instead, I give a thumbs down to blogs like this who close off the conversation to those about who they talk…and the rest of the world. Blog comments can be moderated if necessary, but telling the world that you want to talk about them, but you don't want to hear what they say makes no sense, is in poor taste, and just doesn't seem like the American way. Controlling the sharing of thoughts and ideas and not allowing other powerful voices to come in, contribute, and be shared is no good! So, while I tried to draft a response to the authors and readers of this blog, this is not possible. This blog is deaf to outsiders.

Instead I share here in an admittedly awkward platform, my only possible spot to contribute my response. If you're interested, first read my post about Why Social Media Curriculum is Critical in Schools then the responses from the members of my blog followed by my reaction.

Alison said...

This is a very interesting idea. I can see from the point of view that says that social networking sites can be beneficial in an educational environment, but I'm not sure if I would include Twitter. You can't give a full and complete answer in such a limited amount of characters. Also, I wonder if this would eliminate the human element in classrooms if students and teachers were communicating through computers.

April 24, 2010 9:56 AM

Shannon said...

I strongly agree with incoporating technology in the classroom, but, I do not think social network sites are the way to go. There is too much potential for student misuse while working in school. I believe students can work and communicate with their friends face to face in the classroom by working in groups.

Jacki Goy said...

While I agree with both Alison and Shannon, I also think that the use of social network-type sites by students and teachers (together) could let them understand each other on a different level. For example, I am "friends" with a few of my professors at Oneonta on Facebook. Many people claim that they have inappropriate pictures and posts on sites like Facebook and Myspace, but when is something considered "inappropriate"? If students do not feel comfortable with someone seeing any kind of information about him or her on the internet, it simply should not be on the internet. I think that the way certain forms of technology are used is more important than the idea of using them at all.

April 25, 2010 1:56 PM

First, I want to thank Digital Literacy for sharing my post and I do hope to connect with your members in the future on my blog

@Alison, you should include Twitter. It is one of the most powerful tools out there for learning. Twitter isn’t about a Tweet. It’s about a conversation. See this smart comic strip from my blog contributor Jeff Branzburg for insight into this concept . I have learned an enormous amount from my Twitter network. There are many brilliant people on Twitter because of this. Don’t dismiss the tool and its power without investigating it fully. As far as your question about eliminating the human element-absolutely not. First…the people on Twitter are humans. It doesn’t eliminate the human element, instead it increases it and connects you to a whole global world of humans who connect, make ideas, and have conversations. When these humans have the opportunities to connect f-2-f or via telephony services, our conversations are rich and tools like Twitter allow the conversations and ideas to keep going even when we are not in the same physical space.

@Shannon, please don’t eliminate social networks because of misuse. These are the tools that allow us to connect globally with others who share our passions, talents, and ideas. If we were to ban potential tools because of misuse we’d need to tape everyone’s mouths and cover their ears and ban paper and pens. Social (or as I call them learning) networks are communication tools that allow us to share ideas, thoughts, and have conversations. Yes, the sharing of ideas can be misused, but in America, we do believe in freedom of speech. In schools we can work with students to discuss acceptable and appropriate use.

@JackiGoy, yes! Right on target. We should live the life online and offline that we are comfortable with. Whether virtual or physical what we do becomes a part of the digital or mental footprint of others and we need to think about and be deliberate in our actions. Let’s help instill the idea that the physical or mental footprint we leave behind should be one we are proud of. That surely will contribute to a responsible and respectable populous.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Share pictures from multiple phones to a shared space

I recently was trying to determine the best way to have a variety of people send pictures to a shared space. I was looking to figure this out for an art lesson where a teacher wanted students in her various classes to take pictures of art in their neighborhoods, answer some reflective questions about each piece and share it all with others. Her idea was to have the students each email her the pictures to her email account then she would take each picture and place it in a power point with the picture name and question answers.

My thought was that this would be too hard and too time consuming so I turned to my personal learning network for advice where I asked:
"How can you take pics on ur phone, then send from phone to a shared space or album?"

Here are their suggestions:

From Twitter:

cwebbtech I have shot pics on my phone and then sent them to my account. Works very well.
matthewbritton E-mail is the easiest if it has to be universal - but not that many people have e-mail set up on their phones.
jdthomas7 Many ways, here is good article if you use Flickr:
zenirj app shozu does it pretty well. What r u trying to send to. Most places will set up email for that.
techeducator Evernote! It creates an email address that you can send things to. Then you can make it public. Works with webclips photo etc.
Aaron_Eyler there is a setting in FlikR for an upload-like feature via email.
iSchoolBand I use an app called photobucket. It is free and makes sharing simple.
Serena F smilieface80 Have u tried Clixtr? Goes to shared album. Think u can even check it on the web afterwards. Still have yet to try it tho.

From Facebook
Melanie Sutherland HoltsmanMelanie Sutherland Holtsman - I have a flickr app I do that with
Kristin Hokanson Kristin Hokanson - flickr gives you and email that you can use that's how I do it :)
Jeff Branzburg Jeff Branzburg - Can be done with Google's picasaweb; each account has an email address to send pix to. Not sure about mms access though. Maybe there is a paper book explaining it ... oops ... I mean online electronic text!
Laura Sabbagh Laura Sabbagh - maybe from your phone you can email it to yourself and do it from there?
Lisa Velmer NielsenLisa Velmer Nielsen - Jeff and Kristin, when you email it to flickr or picassa how does it go into a special album? And, Jeff (haha) so old school :-p No one's gonna go out and buy info we can get for free right here :-)
Kristin HokansonKristin Hokanson - In flickr prefs, you can set your settings up so that you can tag all pix that are emailed. Usually I set up the set afterward from the tags OR like we did at PETE & C...embed a slideshow that filters any picture with that tag into it. Helpful?
Jeff BranzburgJeff Branzburg - If I send a pic via email to picasaweb it goes to a public folder named dropbox with a URL.

Here's what I decided to do and how.

I picked two of the suggestions to try. The one that was recommended the most and the one that was fresh on my mind. Here is what I found.
I like a lot. In fact I just wrote this about it Drop off audio, video, or text files that can be discussed and commented on with so I tried that first. is very easy to use for this purpose as you instantly get an email where pictures can be sent. The pictures appear on a page with the email subject line and message body listed as a comment. The pictures can easily be downloaded or embedded. What didn't seem easy to do was group the pictures or make them into a slide show.

I decided that Flickr does the trick pretty well. Here's how and why. With Flickr you set up a professional account. Flickr gives you an email address to which students send pictures. You can tell Flickr what tag should be associated with pictures sent to that email and you can change the tag at anytime. So, if you were doing an art project the tag could be the subject and your class grade and room number i.e. art8-403. Therefore without any work all the students photos would be tagged with that code. You would then have the student indicate the name of the art in the "Subject line" and the answer to the questions in the "Message" or "Body" of the email. This appears as the photo title (subject) and description (message/body). The teacher can click on a tag (which she already set up in advance) and run a slideshow without any work on her part. As the slideshow runs it shows the name of the art along with the answers to the questions in the description. If the teacher would like she can also encourage students to comment on one another's photos in the comment box.

This option saves the teacher several hours over the method of having students send individual emails and then requiring the teacher to download every picture then create a powerpoint, upload each picture, and copy/paste the titles and question answer. This really requires no work on the part of the teacher once her account is set up. Students just email the picture to her Flickr email with a subject and answer to the question and wah-la. It's showtime! What's more you get a url so the slideshow can be embedded into any online space and shared with the world.

Drop off audio, video, or text files that can be discussed and commented on with ( is an easy to use, online collaboration and file sharing service that provides users with a simple, real time and private way to chat and share images, video, audio, documents and other digital content through unique, user-created and controlled sharing points called 'drops.' can be a powerful resource in the tool belt of innovative educators interested in having students collaborate within various units of study. If a student has access to a phone, they are ready to go.

Teachers can create an account to coincide with units of study for her classes. assigns a voicemail number to the creator's account. The teacher simply shares this number with her students and they can leave an audio report/recording on the topic specified. makes it easy to name and comment on any audio recording which could be done by the teacher only or by teachers and students. Depending on the classroom set up, students can go to the page to leave and read comments or the teacher can print out the pages and hand them out to students. Students with photo capabilities on their phones can share pictures in the same fashion with the same commenting ability.

'Drops' do not require any type of account registration and can be password-protected and set to expire after a period of time, so you can share exactly what you want with whom you want for as long as you want. provides a convenient and private method for sharing all types of digital content, ranging from photos, audio, video, emails, and documents. You can also use chat to collaborate real time.

Ideas for Using with Students

1) Students can leave opinions on provocative topics in social studies class and other classmates can comment.
2) Students can share oral readings of Poetry (or any genre) on which they can comment to self-reflect, peers can comments, and the teacher can comment as well.
3) Have students leave an audio message with their hypothesis or predictions about a topic of study. Listen to the page to see who was on target.

Here's How to Get Started

  • Choose a drop name. Ideally this is easy to remember, includes your class number i.e. 6-209 and the title of the topic you are teaching. For example you may choose WoemenHistory6-209 as your account name.
  • Indicate your email and password and select save.
  • Click 'Settings' at the top right to customize your drop and manage its features.
  • Select "Get a number" and a number will be assigned to you where you can receive audio messages and others can comment.
Watch this Video to Learn More

Friday, April 23, 2010

Science Lesson: Celebrating Science Fair Projects with Twitter

Lesson Overview:
Science fair judges will use Twitter tags to share meaningful feedback at a school science fair.

Tools Used:

Lesson Description:

This lesson brings science fairs into the 21st century using Twitter. Traditional science fairs consist of judges going around from project to project often with student creators never really knowing what those looking at their projects are thinking about their work or the work of their classmates. What's more, parents/families rarely find out what was showcased and have little opportunity to join in on the experience. This lesson changes all of that.

During the science fairs student reporters armed with cell phones are assigned and stationed throughout the fair. They may be in individual booths, stations, or dispersed throughout. These students are assigned to the "Science Fair Tweet Beat" where they will interview judges about the science fair projects asking questions such as:
-"What projects had surprising findings?"
-"What project made you go, WOW! And why?"
-"What project made you go Hmmmm....And why?"
-"What project has the most potentiall for impacting the environment? Explain."

Of Note:
  • You will work with your students and colleagues to determine other relevant questions as well.
  • If student personal learning devices are banned at you school, then selected teachers would each hand over their cell phone to the student reporters to capture the Tweet Beat.

When students tweet they will use the short school Twitter tag in their message as well as the Twitter username of the person's project being discussed. For example the tag for Susan B Anthony High School in Los Angeles, California might be "SBALA." The tweet could be, "@Innovativeedu's project at the SBALA's science fair will allow any garden to grow tropical fruit from egg shells!"

This way students can follow what is happening with their projects, the school will have an updated Science fair stream which they can publish to their website, and interested parents, friends, family, can join in on the conversation tweeting feedback, reactions, questions, and thoughts. As individual students follow the Tweets about them, they should be encouraged to respond and keep the conversation going.

Here's how to get started:
Your students will need an acad
emic Twitter account (discuss consequences for inappropriate use) and the school will need to have a tag established for this lesson. Cell phones used will need to have Twitter entered in their phone (40404) and be enabled to receive text updates which can be set up at

If the school is planning to run a feed on their website or blog there are numerous ways to do this on a variety of hosts. To find what is right for you Google "twitter feed on website."

Tweets can be searched by placing the search term in Twitter or another tool like or

How lesson was enriched with tech:
Using Twitter to capture a Science Fair Tweet Beat enables students to get a deeper glimpse into the heads of attendees. It also provides a home school connection enabling parents and family members who can't be present at the school to follow how their child's project is going and even create their own Tweets to join the conversation. Hosting a Tweet Beat science fair enables students to celebrate their work not only with the judges, but with parents, family, and the world.

NETS Student Standards Addressed (see:
  • Creativity and Innovation - Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
  • Communication and Collaboration - Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making - Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.
  • Digital Citizenship - Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.

NETS Teacher Standards Addressed (see:
  • Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity
  • Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
  • Model Digital-Age Work and Learning

What research-based instructional strategies are used in this lesson?
  • Summarizing and note taking
  • Reinforcing effort and providing recognition
  • Setting objectives and providing feedback

If you try this lesson, share how it went at
For more lessons visit Harnessing the Power of Cell Phones in Class Lesson Plans

Thursday, April 22, 2010

140 Character Conference - The State of Now in Education

Those that believe in the impact of the state of now for education will enjoy the four education-related conversations at the #140conf this week. Here they are in the order in which they were presented.

Social Media + Education
Chris Lehmann

Real Time Communication and Education.
Aparna Vashisht (@Parentella) - Founder, Parentella (moderator)
Kevin Jarrett (@kjarrett) - K-4 Technology Teacher
Lisa Nielsen (@InnovativeEdu) - Educational Technologist
Mary Beth Hertz (@mbteach) - K-6 Computer Teacher and Technology Teacher Leader in Philadelphia

Twitter and Animal Farm (and some 8th graders)

Real-time web and Education
Participants Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal) - Principal of New Milford HS (NJ)
Kyle B. Pace (@kylepace) - Teaching K-12 teachers about technology infusion
Steven W. Anderson (@web20classroom) - Technology Educator, Blogger, Co-Creator of #edchat
Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) - Professor of English in Secondary Education

You can read more on the topic in these posts:
1) Teaching Kids how to manage their Digital Footprint - Lisa Nielsen
2) Why social media curriculum is critical in schools - Lisa Nielsen
3) Ideas for parents interested in helping students manage their digital footprint and effectively participate in social media. - Lisa Nielsen
4) #140Conf Talk and Telling Our Story - Chris Lehmann
5) #140 Character Conference Reflection - Mary Beth Hertz
6) What Does Communication Mean in 2010 - Mary Beth Hertz
7) The State of Now and K-12 Education: The 140 Character Conf - Kevin Jarrett

Innovative Ideas for Beginning Your Paperless Pledge This Earth Day

I'm not a fan of "Days." Mother's "Day," Father's "Day," Valentine's "Day," Earth "Day." You get the picture. Be kind to your mother, your father, your love, your Earth...every"DAY." However, I suppose I do see the value in reminding folks of and celebrating what's important, so, this Earth Day my call to action is for educators to GO PAPERLESS!

I've been paperless for many years now. It's been easy and a huge improvement in moving past my former paper-trained existence. Here are some useful posts to help other innovative educators do the same.

I invite you to join me and hundreds of other educators in going paperless and saving an endless number of trees by the actions of you, your students and other educators you touch. You can take the paperless classroom pledge here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Real Time Communication in Education - 140 Character Conference Begins Today!

badge5The 140 Characters Conference in New York City begins today, April 20th. It's largest worldwide gathering of people interested in the effects of the real-time Internet on business, education, and “we” the people. Speakers include Ann Curry, NBC News (@AnnCurry), Chris Lehmann, Principal of the Science Leadership Academy, (@chrislehmann), Donny Deustch (@Donny_Deutsch), Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump), and MC Hammer (@MCHammer).

I am a part of the Twitter and Education panel and joined by @mbteach, and @kjarret, with @parentella moderating. The topic of our panel is called, "Real Time Communication in Education. Specifically, we'll be discussing:

1) Teaching Kids how to manage their Digital Footprint
2) Why social media curriculum is critical in schools
3) Ideas for parents interested in helping students manage their digital footprint and effectively participate in social media.

For a preview of what I'll be discussing, you can click on any of the links above for my thoughts on the topic.

I look forward to discussing these topics on the panel and I hope to see other innovative educators at the conference as well.

If you're already in NYC this is something you should consider attending tomorrow. You can register to reserve a ticket at a cost of $80 for one day. You can register here to guarantee yourself access to the event.

The format at the #140conf events is unique. Individual talks are 5 and 10 minutes, keynotes are 15 and 20 minutes and panel discussions are no more than 20 minutes. During the course of the two days more than 140 people will share the stage at the 92nd Street Y in about 70 sessions. To get a feel of the energy you may experience click here to review the videos from the 2009 #140conf NYC. The takeaways from this event will provide the attending delegates knowledge, perspectives and insights to the next wave of effects twitter and the real-time internet will have on business and education in 2010 and beyond.

Twitter - It's All About the Conversation

In light of today's #140conf ( I thought it would be timely to bring back Jeff Branzburg's witty Twitter Comicstrip. Enjoy!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Innovative Educators Can Help Students Get Creative with Comics Using Bitstrips

Visitors to The Innovative Educator blog have likely read Jeff Branzburg's funny (and accurate) comic strip commentaries, like his latest one about educational consultants. He makes them at, a fun site that lets anyone create comics without having to draw.

Now there’s an educational version of the site designed for teachers, called Bitstrips for Schools. In addition to the avatar and comic-making tools, it features private virtual classrooms, teacher moderation controls, and a shared activities library covering a range of subjects for grades 1-12.

Take a look at how Bitstrips for Schools is used in one Grade 4/5 classroom in this video.

Bitstrips for Schools from Bitstrips on Vimeo.

Multimodal digital tools like Bitstrips for Schools can help motivate 21st century learners to develop their skills in writing and editing, critical thinking, and visual and internet literacy.

The setup is pretty straightforward: Teachers create their classroom and assign students an activity from the library (you can also make your own). Students then log in with their unique classroom code, create their avatar, and complete and submit the activity using the comic builder. Students can collaborate, remix and comment on each other’s work, and teachers can grade comics and provide individual feedback.

Bitstrips for Schools is available for free to teachers in New York until the end of the school year – you can activate an account at If you have or plan to develop a comic please share it and your experience, right here on The Innovative Educator.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rookie A.P.

By Jacob Gutnicki

Monday, Period 0

Bill Perkinson the new Math Assistant Principal at Burrhus Frederic Skinner High School was not in a good mood. Why did Michael Lotta insist on insulting students? He could be so infuriating. The principal warned him to be careful with Michael. The warning was etched in his head. “Be cautious. Michael has been here a long time. He has lots of allies within the school community, knows the teacher contract very well, and was a union chapter leader for 11 years.”

Never the less, what could he do? Two parents complained that Mr. Lotta was cruel to their children. It was time to lay down the law and let him know this kind of behavior would not be tolerated. With this in mind, Bill sent an e-mail to Mr. Lotta stating that he will be meeting with him to discuss a disciplinary issue during the 7th period on Tuesday.

Wednesday, Period 0

Mr. Lotta did not show at the scheduled Tuesday meeting. Bill feels slighted and decides to place a letter in Mr. Lotta’s file. After all, failure to show up to a requested meeting can be deemed as an act of insubordination.

Wednesday, Period 3

Mr. Lotta storms into Bill Perkinson’s office.

Mr. Lotta- “What is the meaning of this?”

Bill - “You were scheduled to meet with me yesterday at Period 7 and failed to do so. Subsequently, you received a letter in your file for insubordination.”

Mr. Lotta- “I do not recall notice of any meeting. What in the hell are you talking about little man?”

Bill- “Well… I took the luxury of printing this e-mail… and as…”

Mr. Lotta- “e-mail? Is that what you have on me? I don’t recall the school issuing me an e-mail account or a memo requiring me to read an e-mail?”

Bill- “Why don’t you sit down so that we can discuss this?”

Mr. Lotta- “Hey, too young to shave. Listen closely, cause I’m going to say this only once. I am not discussing anything with you until you remove that letter. A letter that you had no right to place in my file in the first place.”

Bill- “Fine. I will remove the letter.”

Mr. Lotta- “I will need that in writing on letterhead. This should include an apology.”

Bill- “I will write the letter affirming that the other letter is being removed. But lets not push it.”

Mr. Lotta- “Fine.”

Bill-“I am glad we are getting somewhere. Now I would like to talk to you about an issue that was brought to my attention.”

Mr. Lotta- “Sorry. No can do. I have a class to teach in 5 minutes. You speak to my people. Later.”

Thursday, Period 7

Bill- “Good Afternoon Mr. Lotta. We are here to discuss a disciplinary issue that was brought to my attention. According to two parents you stated…”

“Listen buddy. Do you see this ruler I’m holding? It can be used for more than measuring. You dig.”

…“Do you care to shed some light on this?”

Mr. Lotta- “What? You got to be kidding! For the record, I was simply informing them that rulers are not used just for measuring. You got a problem with that?”

Bill- “I also understand that you confiscated several cell phones.”

Mr. Lotta- “and your point?”

Bill- “Well… why wasn’t it returned?”

Mr. Lotta- “Young stuff, you need to get educated. Read the school disciplinary code. It clearly states that teachers may confiscate all electronic devices as they are an interruption to learning.”

Bill- “I will have to look into that. Still, don’t you think you ought to be more civil with your students?”

Mr. Lotta- “What are you talking about? You know what I think. I am tired of hearing this wining from parents who are soft and cry every time their child feels slighted and feel the need to spoil their children with every tech toy being advertised. These parents are rotting their children’s brains with foolishness and destroying our country. They need to grow up and stop placating their children. As for you, do not bother me with agenda based on stupidity. Good Day.”

Bill- “We are not done yet.”

Mr. Lotta- “Later.”

Friday, Period 0

Principal- “Bill you need to drop your issue with Mr. Lotta. I do not need headaches. Do you understand?”

Bill- “Yes.”

Google Voice Provides Every Teacher with a Personal Secretary

Google Voice is a terrific tool for busy educators for a number of reasons. First, it gives you one phone number that is tied to you. You can chose to have that phone number ring any phone you’d like. As a result, you can pick just one phone to take with you and all your phones will ring into it. You will never again need to carry multiple phones or swap phones. Another feature that the busy teacher will love is that it gives every teacher their personal secretary as all voicemails are transcribed. How fabulous is that?!?!!! You'll never need to transcribe a message, or sort through 4 voicemails to get to the one you were trying to listen to. Just read or click on the message you want to hear and skip over the rest. 

Make your classroom a global communication center for free with Skype

Are you an educator willing to share ideas through Skype? If you have the bandwidth, get on the bandwagon! If you have a skill or expertise that you would like to share with educators around the world, or visit classroom to classroom, input your information here. You can see experts who have signed up as experts willing to speak with classes here. Examples: authors, illustrators, career visits, experts on history, sciences, math, etc.

To learn more read how Melanie Holtsman is doing this with her students in her post Skype in the Classroom and watch this example of how an educator used Skype with students.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Death of Freemiums at Ning Could Mean Better Opportunities for Schools

Students Using Social NetworksAs a proponent of using resources in school that are used in the real world, I’m often asked what my feelings are about using social networks with students, which I have written about numerous times here on my blog. There’s great educational value in using such networks, but the sticky part always comes when asked about the use of networks with students under 13. This recently came up again when Renny Fong, Innovation Specialist at a K - 5 school in New York City asked the following:

"Could we create a "safe" place where our students could have a private/intranet kind of social network. Is there anything out there that is for 10-year-olds or even younger, where you don't need an e-mail address and the activity could be monitored by the school? Is this even a good idea? We even have a handful of first and second graders who have come to the computer lab asking if they can go on Facebook!

What to do?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated! I have a feeling you've probably even written about this, so if you could forward me along any information. I think we need to address this as a school, amongst teachers, students, and of course, parents."

The question is not as easy to answer as one might think because many of us in the ed tech world are under the impression that the COPA (or is it COPPA?) law says you can’t use online networks with students. Many of us believe this because places like Ning and Facebook require users to be 13. However, after posing this question to my own learning networks in Twitter, Facebook, Classroom 2.0, one of my friends indicated my belief was incorrect, so I studied the law a little more closely and was surprised to find the following about the law.

First, there are two different Acts. Yes, two!

Child Online Protection Act and Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. And, therein lies part of the confusion.

To shed a little light on this, here is a recap of each bill (Wikipedia, April 16, 2010).

Child Online Protection Act

The Child Online Protection Act[1] (COPA)[2] was a law in the United States of America, passed in 1998 with the declared purpose of restricting access by minors to any material defined as harmful to such minors on the Internet. The United States federal courts have ruled that the law violates the constitutional protection of free speech, and therefore have blocked it from taking effect. As of 2009, the law remains unconstitutional and unenforced.

COPA required all commercial distributors of "material harmful to minors" to restrict their sites from access by minors. "Material harmful to minors" was defined as material that by "contemporary community standards" was judged to appeal to the "prurient interest" and that showed sexual acts or nudity (including female breasts).

On March 22, 2007, U.S. District Judge Lowell A. Reed, Jr. struck down the bill,[7] issuing an order permanently enjoining the government from enforcing COPA, commenting that "perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection."[9] The government again appealed, and the case was heard before the Third Circuit.[10]

Ultimately, on January 21, 2009, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear appeals of the lower court decision, effectively killing the bill.[13][14]

Children's Online Privacy Protection Act

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) is a United States federal law, enacted October 21, 1998. The act applies to the online collection of personal information by persons or entities under U.S. jurisdiction from children under 13 years of age. It details what a website operator must include in a privacy policy, when and how to seek verifiable consent from a parent or guardian, and what responsibilities an operator has to protect children's privacy and safety online including restrictions on the marketing to those under 13. While children under 13 can legally give out personal information with their parents' permission, many websites altogether disallow underage children from using their services due to the amount of paperwork involved.

The Act applies to websites and online services operated for commercial purposes that are either directed to children under 13 or have actual knowledge that children under 13 are providing information online. Most recognized non-profit organizations are exempt from most of the requirements of COPPA.[1]

The application of the Act to photographs of children is a matter of interpretation that is yet to be tested in the courts. However, one US government department says "There is no restriction on the dissemination of photos of children, if they are taken in public spaces, with no identification, and are used only for editorial (not advertising) purposes. The use of pre-arranged photos, taken in a protected environment such as a school or hospital, and showing a highly-defined and recognizable image, requires a release".[3]

So what's that all mean?

I did my best above to share the relevant parts of each Act. Here's my my educator's interpretation. I am not a lawyer however, so for a legal interpretation, you may need to find one of those.

The COPA bill was never passed because it was believed to violate free speech. I think that Judge Reed's insight in regards to the COPA bill is important. It goes in alignment with my belief about filtering which is that we should be preparing students inside schools for the world they live in outside of schools.

The COPPA bill was bill was passed into a law, however, the belief many educators have about the illegality of students engaging in online networks is incorrect. I was one of those educators who believed that it was illegal because Facebook and Ning had policies against children under 13 using their networks and I have read that decision was made as a result of the COPPA law. After review of this law, I have concluded that they do this because it's easier to just disallow students from using the site then it is to complete the paperwork involved. Also, it should be noted that the act applies only to services that are operated for commercial purposes.

So what now?

Since I'm proponent of using social (or as I say, "learning") networks with students, I'm often asked by those like Renny, what to use for schools who want to do social networking with elementary students. There are a bunch of paid for sites exist, but I believe these services should be free for teachers, just like Ning is for students over 13. Many companies have jumped on the band wagon for paid for sites for students, i.e. Saywire, SchoolTown, eChalk, ePals. But I believe that there should be companies who bother to figure out the paperwork for students under 13 and offer a free alternative to students. And, the timing for this is great. As many innovative educators have recently learned, there is a big brouhaha happening with Ning as recently reported in Tech Crunch here Ning's Bubble Bursts: No More Free Networks, Cuts 40% Of Staff and then by the New York Times Ning Kills Free Service, Would Like to Get Paid Now, Please.

Now all sorts of companies are popping their heads out excited and ready to take their piece of the market. Companies like are proudly displaying their willingness to take the share of the market. There are two things to notice on the WackWall homepage image:
1) They are primed to take Ning's market. In fact their blog says that they will soon release a migration tool.
2) They have a young child on the homepage. So, maybe they are willing to accept under-13 users. I didn't find anything to the contrary on their site.

There are many sites to check out though.
In fact, it was amazing to watch the speed at which the alternatives to Ning document has developed As I visited this document today there were more than 350 other viewers looking on as well. Instantly there's a list of possibilities for educators to explore, and now that Ning has crashed down and opened up the market, we'll see what plays out. Will this become a paid for only environment, or will freemiums prevail???

And, then what?

If you plan to use a learning network with kids under 13, tech facilitator Kevin Jarrett and library media specialist Susan Ettenheim have good advice. Kevin shares that at their school, they, "have everything covered re: COPPA/CIPA/whatever ... we use no personally-identifiable info ANYWHERE, parents sign a permission form, and I (Kevin) create the accounts and have the passwords. So, we (the school) have control." Susan Ettenheim explains ides for how you could have a site with no personally identifiable information in her blog post, Creating Avatars and Icons as personal representations - as opposed to photos. For the under 13-sect, this is a great option. For over-13, I recommend we start helping students establish an appropriate digital footprint that represents an identity of which they are proud. You can read more about how to do that here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


another in my semi-regular series of 'comic' strips ... by jeff branzburg

Win an iPad in Shmoop Poetry Contest

Shmoop In celebration of National Poetry Month, Shmoop ( announces its first Poetry Essay Contest. Participants can submit an essay related to "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost for a chance to win an Apple iPad. Author and English teacher, Jim Burke, will judge the finalists of the Poetry Essay Contest. Founder of the English Companion Ning, Burke recently joined Shmoop as Special Advisor.

Shmoop Poetry Essay Contest Details
Answer this question in 500 or fewer words:
"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost: Examine the relationship between the speaker in the poem and his environment, which includes not only the woods themselves but his horse, the owner of the woods, and the community. Include in your discussion an examination of Frost's use of language and imagery, focusing on how these contribute to the meaning of the poem and help him to achieve his purpose. Be sure to support your ideas with evidence from the poem.

Contest open to current high school students (and younger)
  • 500 words maximum
  • Entries must be written in English
  • Submit entry as a Word, text, or PDF document to
  • Deadline for entry is May 28, 2010

For more information, visit:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Innovative Educator Awarded as a Top Innovator in Education

Top 50 Education Innovator Award - Online Colleges

April 12th, 2010, Philadelphia, PA – The Innovative Educator has recently been honored to receive’s Education Innovator Award.  The Education Innovator Award recognizes the top 50 Internet-based resources that contribute to the advancement of learning into new and innovative formats.  By promoting the emerging trends in education, The Innovative Educator facilitates such change by building on traditional techniques while embracing new tools for sharing information and encouraging the desire to learn. 


The Innovative Educator epitomizes the role of an educational pioneer, as it engages students, educators and parents alike, and highlights the myriad of educational opportunities available today.  The Education Innovator Award recognizes The Innovative Educator’s exploration of new educational methods, as this willingness to embrace new learning formats truly embodies the innovator spirit.  To view more about the award, visit the eCollegeFinder Education Innovator Award page.



Getting ahead in today's competitive job market requires you to advance your education and knowledge. helps students find the right online degrees, offering a wide range of Bachelor’s, Masters and PhD degrees as well as specialized certificates and diplomas from the top accredited online colleges and universities.

You can draw in Google Docs. Woohoo!

Here's how from their website...

About Google drawings

With Google Docs drawings you can easily create, share, and edit drawings online.

Here are a few specific things you can do:

  • Edit drawings online in real time with anyone you choose, and invite others to view your edits in real time.
  • Chat with others who are editing your drawing, from within the drawings editor.
  • Publish drawings online to the world as images, or download them in standard formats.
  • Insert text, shapes, arrows, scribbles, and images from your hard drive or from the Web.
  • Lay out drawings precisely with alignment guides, snap to grid, and auto distribution.
  • Insert drawings into other Google documents, spreadsheets, or presentations using the web clipboard, then tweak them inline.

Creating and Editing Drawings: Using Google drawings with documents, spreadsheets, and presentations

With Google drawings, you can create and collaborate on flow charts, design diagrams, and other types of drawings. You can also chat with other editors from within Google drawings, publish drawings as images, or download drawings to your computer. To get started, just go to your Docs list, click Create new and select Drawings.

Once you’ve created your drawing, and have edited and shared it with others, you might want to insert it (embed it) in a Google document, for example. Use the web clipboard to copy the whole drawing, or any selection within the drawing, and paste it into your doc using the web clipboard. The embedded drawing is a copy of the original, and both can be edited independently after copying. So, if you need to make any minor changes to the drawing, you can edit it from within the document, using the embedded version of Google drawings. Simply click first the drawing and then the Edit link that appears. This version of Google drawings includes a more limited set of features.

Check out my fancy drawing below. Note, having a Tablet makes doing a drawing, dreamy. You can draw without fear. Make a mistake, just undo or erase.

You can use Google drawings to enhance your presentations. You may want to design complete slides within drawings and then use the web clipboard to paste them into your presentation when they’re complete.

Once the drawing has been embedded, you can’t share that version as a separate doc. However, you can use the web clipboard again to copy and paste the embedded version into a new drawing that you can share.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Innovative Idea for Equipment-Poor Science Teachers to Provide Hands-On Experiences for Learners

With school budget cuts it's often difficult to give students the hands-on experience in science that makes learning fun. A new campaign from ASPEX a producer of Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEM) may help alleviate the issue. Their "Send Us Your Sample" campaign let's students send any sample to a remote lab. Perfect for equipment-strapped schools. Students simply submit their Submission Form (PDF) along with their sample and they'll get a free report posted.

Students can send in anything they'd like, from a broken iPhone, to a dead insect, to chewed gum. The SEM has a scan range of 100nm to 5mm and an imaging resolution of 25nm, capable of bringing the smallest samples into focus. ASPEX will scan submitted samples and then post before/after photos along with an analytical report online. This allows viewers to see what the sample looks like to the naked eye as well as under the SEM.

You can send students to the site right now to visit the SEM Image Gallery where they can see samples of already scanned objects, including mold, cat hair, fly eyes, an old toothbrush and more. What's more students can have the experience of writing authentically because comments are allowed on each before and after photo series. Educators can teach students how to join the conversation with real audiences leaving thoughtful and appropriate comments that add to learning of all. When students images are posted, encourage them to write comments on images of their classmates.

Students can also engage in a fun contest on the site right now is called "Name that Sample!" Each week magnified images are shown and the person who guesses it right or closest, wins a prize. Right now the prize is a brand new Netbook providing a fun and innovative way to encourage learning, communication and team building.

So what are you waiting for. Go to, check it out, then have your students send in their samples!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The 15 Essentials of Bad Professional Development in Technology

by Jacob Gutnicki

1. Do not test the equipment prior to presenting.

2. Do not prepare alternate activities just in case the Internet is not functioning.

3. Do not allow your audience to ever ask questions.

4. Do not give refreshments. What do they think? This is not a café!

5. Do not help confused participants. Assume they were not paying attention.

6. No need to verify links. A broken link never hurt anyone.

7. Talk really fast; the faster the better.

8. Hands-on activities are for losers. It’s all about the lecture.

9. Discussions are a waste of time.

10. No preparation required. Real professional developers shoot from the hip.

11. No agenda required. Your participants are perfectly capable of taking notes.

12. No tutorials required. The Internet will take care of this.

13. No follow up required because we all work too hard.

14. No need to worry about varying software versions or computing platforms. After all, it all works the same way; basically.

15. Feedback??? We don’t need any stinking surveys!!!


If you liked this, you may also like: Seven qualities of highly effective technology trainers

Innovative Ideas for Using Cell Phones for Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback

Editor's note: This is just one in a series of posts focused on the nine instructional strategies that are most likely to improve student achievement across all content areas from the book Classroom Instruction That Works by Robert Marzano, Debra Pickering, and Jane Pollock.

Setting objectives and providing feedback engage students in a metacognitive system of thinking. In other words, it provides students with knowledge about how they learn which is an effective instructional tool. Here are some ways that setting objectives and providing feedback can be enriched with the use of cell phones.

  • Classroom Practice in Goal Setting
    Research and theory on goal setting indicates that instructional goals narrow what students focus on, should not be too specific, and that students should be encouraged to personalize the teacher goals.
    • Subject: Science
    • Cell Phone Tool: Wiffiti
    • Topic: The Human Body
    • Lesson Overview: In this lesson students are studying the human body. Following the research-based strategy outlined in Classroom Instruction That Works, the teacher has provided general targets for students in the unit, but then asks students to personalize their goals. The teacher explains her goal is for them to understand how each of the main organs works individually as well as how they work together as a system. Then, each student develops their personal learning goals for which the teacher provides the sentence starters: "I want to know... and "I want to know more about..."

      This is an effective instructional strategy that can be enriched with the use of Wiffiti. To do this the teacher asks the students to text their personal learning goals to the Wiffiti bulletin board she has created for the class. This instantly enables the teacher and the class to see the type of personal learning goals students have. The value of this for students is 1) They may learn from their classmates new ideas to incorporate or ideas to modify 2) They may want to partner up with other students who share similar learning goals. The value for the teacher is that she can instantly get a big-picture view of her classes learning goals and also instantly see goals that may need modification.

      Near the close of the unit the teacher can set up a second Wiffiti board where students can share what they learned in relation to their learning goals. Students with similar goals should be encouraged to partner to share their answers. Not only is this beneficial in recognizing the learning of the class, but it also serves as a fantastic review of the unit and can provide for a great discussion prior to the end-of-unit assessment.
    • How technology enriches the lesson:
      • Posting learning goals to a Wiffiti board provides a great way to not only share learning goals across the class, but also is a great resource to share with parents/guardians at the start of a unit.
      • Sharing learning outcomes on a Wiffiti board provides a great way not only to help the students review what they learned as a class in the unit, but also is a terrific resource to share with parents/guardians at the end of a unit so they are filled in on their child's learning.
      • For a teacher this is nice because there are no papers to collect and she can see all student goals and learning at a glace.
      • For a student this is nice because they can easily learn from one another. Learning is no longer contained to each student only.,

  • Classroom Practice in Providing Feedback
    Research and theory on feedback indicates that feedback should be "corrective" in nature, timely, specific to a criterion, and that students can effectively provide some of their own feedback.

    • Subject: Social Studies / Environmental Science
    • Topic: Womens' Studies / A local environmental issue
    • Cell Phone Tool: Voki
    • Lesson Overview: This lesson combines both women's studies and environmental science using Voki's to engage students. In the lesson the teacher will let students work in pairs, threes, or fours and students in each group will select one figure they've studied as a part of women's history and will determine how she might help to address a local environmental issue i.e. developing school gardens, addressing the recycling issue in a local school or community, reversing pollution in a local river, pond, stream.

      Students will receive guidelines as to what they need to include in their answer and a rubric by which to assess their work. As students think about the environmental issue and select the historical figure, they will create a Voki using their cell phones to record the voice. The Voki will be created as though she was doing a one-minute public address and she will refer to her prior record and experience to explain how she will address today's issue. Because Vokis are designed so that others can comment, they provide a perfect tool for feedback. In this lesson student's, guided by the rubric will be asked to use the rubric to provide feedback on their own Voki (self-reflection), as well as feedback to others in their group (peer review). Ultimately the teacher will also provide feedback on each student's Voki. Students will have an opportunity to re-record their Voki based on the feedback they received. All Vokis will be placed on the page of an online space of the teachers choosing i.e. website, blog, wiki, ning. When all students have completed their projects students will have the opportunity to listen to a variety of ideas for addressing this local environmental issue and can be encouraged to comment on additional Vokis. Upon completion of this project the page can be sent to the person in charge of this project with a message stating something along these lines: "This is how students of our class feel women in history might have addressed this issue. We hope you will be able to incorporate some of these ideas into your work." The person who received this email and page from the school should be encouraged to leave comments on student Vokis. The result, a relevant, real, and meaningful learning experience for students.
    • How technology enriches the lesson:
      • Using a Voki provides a ready-to-go mechanism for students to provide reflective feedback from themselves, and to gather review from their peers. What's nice about this is it can be done anytime anywhere the student is ready to call Voki and enter the passcode associated with their Voki or comment.
      • Using a Voki provides a one stop option for teachers to listen to all student's ideas, reflections and peer review in one place.
      • Voki enables interested parties to access the information anytime/anywhere and respond. Inviting relevant stateholders to the site and encouraging them to comment will provide a meaningful experience for students.
      • The Voki page provides a strong home-school communication. It provides parents with a peak into what is going on in the classroom as well as what their students and others are doing. Upon completion of the project student's work can be shared and parents can be given guidelines and encouraged to comment.

Cell phones provide an effective way to support students in setting objectives and providing feedback. Stay tuned for future posts featuring other research-based strategies to engage students and increase student achievement.