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Friday, November 19, 2010

20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web

Click here to view a new web-book published by the Google Chrome Team.

Life as citizens of the web can be liberating and empowering, but also deserves some self-education. Just as we’d want to know various basic facts as citizens of our physical neighborhoods -- water safety, key services, local businesses -- it’s increasingly important to understand a similar set of information about our online lives. That’s the spirit in which we wrote this guide.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Stop. Collaborate. Listen.

Vanilla Ice, it turns out, is not the complete moron he looks like. Perhaps he peaked too early. :)

I read this today and wanted to share it with all of you, my wonderful partners in collaboration.  Click the link for the full's the intro to get you hooked:

Raise your hand if you spent time exploring, challenging, refining, and enhancing your professional practice today? Now, raise your other hand if that professional learning took place in a collaborative context with other professionals?
Is your hand raised high or "tied" behind your back?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

THE Most Important Skill Ever...or at least today

So maybe I'm exaggerating a little (I'll admit I am prone to hyperbole), but I am finding the more I work with students of all ages, the single most important technical skill that they absolutely need to understand is the difference between Save and Save As....


I honed my teaching of this particular concept with first graders, so I figure if they can get it, so can everyone else.  Files at school are damaged, corrupted, or lost all the time because of a general failure to understand what happens when you start creating multiple copies of things. And saving them in multiple places. Especially if the server comes into play. "The computer ate my work" or, "The computer is broken!" almost always stems from a user error while saving.

In general, I drill ⌘S into my students' heads. The first time one saves a file using ⌘S, the computer automatically does a Save As, which gives them the opportunity to 1) name the file and 2) tell it where to go. From that point on, they will never need Save As again, UNLESS THEY WANT TO CHANGE ONE OF THOSE TWO THINGS!  ⌘S will do for the rest of eternity. So how do I test them to know if they really know the difference? I ask them all time! Should we Save or Save As? How about now? Why would you choose Save As over Save in any circumstance? If it's a simple matter of changing the name of a document, I teach them how without ever needing to open the application.

Now that we have Tarrier Apps, this skill isn't quite as crucial when it comes to word processing. However, the concept still applies in every other application students may use...Comic Life, Photoshop, iMovie, Geometer Sketchpad, etc. Recently, the Save/Save As conundrum got a few middle schoolers stuck in the middle of a video project. When it comes to movies, that's a big deal, because source files have to live in a certain location, and if you tell your computer midway through a project that it's all moving somewhere else, you get the lovely spinning beachball of doom and your work is lost.  Of course, at the heart of Save vs. Save As is a deeper understanding of file structure. I start with the basics in 1st grade because they're just not going to get that part yet, and they simply need to know what to do and how to do it. Eventually, with repetition and experience, the deeper understanding will come.

Friday, October 29, 2010

xtranormal Animated Videos

Here's another alternative for you movie-makers out there. Create something animated!  View the demo here xtranormal allows you to create characters, choose scenery, and type your dialog.  As they say, "if you can type, you can make movies."  You must create an account to get started. Ages 13 or older.  I'd encourage you to click the logo and browse the site. While some videos are obviously created purely for entertainment, it is possible to use this resource for educational purposes.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Creating Project Checklists & Rubrics

Two great sites for help in creating project checklists and rubrics!

PBL takes you to "Project Based Learning" where you can not only find tools to build your checklists, but there's plenty of good information about project based learning. :)  Shocker. Just click the logo once you get there.

Rubistar is an excellent starting point for developing your rubrics. There are lots of options to choose from here, but I typically visit the "Multimedia" section for help when I'm working a rubric involving the integration of technology.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Running Club 2010

Today we had our annual celebration to honor this year’s runners! In addition to a slideshow of our athletes running in races, I made this little video of all the other fun activities they do during practices. “Why walk when you can run?” Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Teachable Moments

Sam Harris and I have embarked upon a new project, a joint blog. For the last few years, we have done presentations to parents in the Middle School about "Parenting in the Digital World." Last year, we expanded our talk beyond cybersafety and bullying to look at media, and its influence, in general. How much time are our kids spending with media? We combined national statistics from a variety of sources with our own CWA data. Using Google Docs, we created a survey for all MS students, and we created a similar one for parents, asking as many of them to take it as possible. We then presented that data to have a real conversation about what OUR kids are doing, and what their parents think they're doing. You can view the student and parent survey results, and see a brief outline of our presentation here.  Sam and I are now planning to take the discussion online, and we invite you to engage with us. We collect a lot of information, and we want to share it with our teachers and parents.  We have facts and opinions, and we want to get them out there. We want folks to interact with us, ask questions, challenge opinions and contribute their own. Please join us:

Cybersafety and cyberbullying are huge, daunting topics to discuss with the adolescents in our care, but they are extremely important conversations to have. If you've followed recent news at all, you may have noticed an increase in stories about bullying and its disastrous effects. I encourage you to engage your students in conversation when the topic comes up. It's these teachable moments we must embrace if we are going to create a safe place for kids to talk about it. Have you ever had an email exchange go south because of a simple misinterpretation of tone or intentions? Have you visited or publicly commented on a website where others didn't have much restraint and hid behind an anonymous user id? How did you feel? How did you handle it? How would you suggest your kids handle it? Technology, in my opinion, isn't creating more bad behavior out there, but it does, in some cases make it easier for people to get themselves into trouble, or simply stir it up. Conversely, it also makes it easier for them to get caught doing it. (Here's one educator's take on this very issue.)  We must turn our focus to the behaviors, not the technology. Bullying is hurtful whether it happens in the lunchroom or a chat room. Do we turn a blind eye? Or do we address it head on? We need to prepare our students for the world they live in, not the one we came from, or the one we wish for. To simply say, "technology is causing all sorts of problems" doesn't do our students any good, because they're already using it. Help them. Jump in with them and find a way to model good behavior. Talk about it when you see examples of poor choices. Verbalize for them your thought process when you encounter things that make you uncomfortable. Ask them, "Would you say that to someone's face? In person?" If they wouldn't, they shouldn't do it online.  At the risk of being completely repetitive (too late!), I'll say it one more about it!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Online Resources - Khan Academy

I already posted this to the Teaching With Technology conference on First Class, but thought I'd share it here again, just in case you missed it. 

Khan Academy Trying to make a world-class education available to anyone, anywhere.... Learn more

"The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) with the mission of providing a world-class education to anyone, anywhere. Despite being the work of one man, Salman Khan, this 1600+ video library is the most-used educational video resource as measured by YouTube video views per day and unique users per month. We are complementing this ever-growing library with user-paced exercises--developed as an open source project--allowing the Khan Academy to become the free classroom for the World. Learn more about the Khan Academy and Salman Khan... "

Brainstorming Online

During our recent inservice, many of you experienced the frustration, excitement, or overhwhelming chaos of sharing a document and having multiple users try to type on it at the same time. Granted, we did some exercises in very large groups, and quickly learned a great deal about potential management problems. A quick solution to that problem is to share with less people. But what if you want to brainstorm with a whole class full of students?  There are a few online applications that could help. One is wallwisher, billed as "a new way to communicate."  It looks and acts like a real bulletin/notice board. Visit the site for more information, or to take a look at some samples. Here's one screenshot that shows you the interface:

You can also visit this blog to read one person's review of the service and how/if it can be integrated for educational use.

Another application to consider, if you're a visual learner like me, is Webspiration. This is the online version of the popular Inspiration software, where users create mind maps and outlines to organize their thoughts or research. Webspiration allows collaboration, so you can create a mind map and invite others to edit it with you. Brainstorm together! Each user has to create their own account to access shared documents, but now that our students have school email addresses, they could be encouraged to start creating online, educational accounts tied to their "professional" address.  Webspiration is currently in beta testing, so accounts are free. I assume the day will come when schools would need to pay for access, but when that time comes, we will compare the costs of software licenses (that we currently own and have Inspiration installed in some locations on campus) with the web-based version. Screen shot below:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cool Stuff You Can Do With Text

click the icons to visit the sites referenced:

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

TagCrowd is a web application for visualizing word frequencies in any user-supplied text by creating what is popularly known as a tag cloud or text cloud. It was created by Daniel Steinbock, a doctoral student in Design and Education at Stanford University. Today, text clouds are primarily used for navigation and visualization on Web 2.0 sites that employ user-generated metadata (tags) as a categorization scheme. (Flickr is a good example.)

Gliffy - Create Diagrams and Flowcharts

Gliffy - Diagram Software for the Rest of Us!
With Gliffy online diagram software, you can easily create professional-quality flowcharts, diagrams, floor plans, technical drawings, and more. Our online diagram editor makes it easier than ever to create great looking drawings.

Click the logo to visit Gliffy, and get started making your own diagrams and flowcharts.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

"Moving Beyond Electronic Worksheets"

I subscribe to many educational technology blogs, many of which are listed in the sidebar. Just this morning, this post from Dangerously Irrelevant came to me through my RSS feeds. How timely. We will talk today about the various ways teachers integrate technology, focusing in particular on a lovely three-circle diagram that highlights communication, facilitation, and constructivism. This post uses different terminology, stressing the need to move from "adapting uses" to "transforming uses." Whatever you call it, and wherever you research ed-tech, the same basic themes are found. Our challenge as educators involves taking these tools and opening the doors to student creativity, exploration, and knowledge building. There's nothing wrong with electronic worksheets! They are efficient, environmentally friendly, and available at home or school. More importantly, they are a stepping stone to "transforming uses." Understanding the technology is the first step. Join us in the ongoing conversation of "What is Technology Integration?" Bring us your questions, collaborate in your planning, and try to figure out where you are in the three circles. You will move between them frequently, sometimes all at once. It's exciting!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Again With the Time Thing...Sheesh!

So after I wrote the very first post to this new site, I took it upon myself to create a sample of "My Tech Integration Plan." This is an actual lesson I am teaching my 3rd grade students. We started today, and the kids rocked the house. Don't be dismissive because it's for small people...everything I know about effective teaching with technology I learned from 1st graders. Seriously. They require that you bring your A game. Anyway, as I tried to take a simple statement like "How to Use the Server" and turn it into a concrete lesson, I implemented the planning process I usually undergo when helping others develop lessons that involve technology. As I started listing what technical skills my students need to know, something became very clear to me.

There's no way I can teach this and actually expect them to learn it in one hour.

One hour. That's my weekly allotment. Now, don't get me wrong, their fabulous and wonderful homeroom teachers will reinforce this concept every time the kids turn on a laptop to work on any kind of file, and I know I won't be the only one delivering the message. But that darn time element is a tricky thing when technology is involved. It is essential in our planning to really think through the little steps that sometimes get assumed. Many a lesson in my early days went astray because a child misunderstood the concept of "clicking and dragging." Now that I know better, we spend a little bit of time every week reviewing our common "technology vocabulary" so everyone knows what I'm talking about when I use words like "menu" or "dock" or "window." While those of you with older, more experienced students won't need to devote time to these very simple skills, there will be others you need to consider. When you ask students to gather digital images for a project, do they really know how to do it? From legitimate sources? With proper citation? While considering the impact of the visual image on the content? Where should the images be saved? Does it matter? What format should they be in? Is there a size restriction? What will the images be used for in their finished form? and so on...  Each of those questions represents a skill that your students need to fulfill your request of "gathering images."

Planning is essential in all aspects of teaching. Thanks, Captain Obvious, you're thinking. In the early phases of planning with and for technology, however, we must account for many unknowns. Time gets lost in the unknowns, so the more careful your planning is from the outset, the closer you will stick to your goals. Making that list of things they need to know may be time consuming up front, but it will help you clarify your expectations for the project, and set your students on a path they can follow. And you'll be pleasantly surprised when you get to skip over things they already know...and save time in the end.

Google Apps

Though we call ours Tarrier Apps for the sake of school spirit and unity (go green!), we have joined the Googleverse! There are lots of educators out there, just like us, adapting to 21st Century technology and teaching methods. Here are a few resources where you can get help with using Google Apps in the classroom:

Google Apps Education Training Center

Teaching With Google Docs
The Google Apps Blog
Google Forms - how to create a quiz or a test that automatically grades itself in Google Docs
Tips for Automatically Grading Quizzes - Google Apps Education Training Center

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Keeping it Simple

When new technologies enter our lives, as Tarrier Apps has done this fall with gusto, we each have different reactions. Some respond with great enthusiasm and dive right in, finding excellent ways to incorporate it into their daily routines, implement it in their classrooms, or play around with it to discover what's possible. Others hold back and observe from the sidelines, perhaps waiting for the adrenaline rush to subside or for more structured guidance on how we can apply this in education.

For those of you jumping on board with this new tool, I encourage you to be thoughtful about simplicity

We have a mantra in the technology field, that "just because you can, doesn't mean you should." This applies to all sorts of things, like social networking and privacy settings, adding bells and whistles to multimedia presentations, toying with audio and video effects in movie projects, and especially leaping in without testing the waters first. Technology does not replace teaching or content. We don't have to do everything all at once. There will still be times when a good old paper handout works better than an online form or shared doc. That's okay! It's important in your planning to be reflective of what will be most efficient for you to manage, as well as your students. While there are many things that Tarrier Apps can make easier for us, we need the time to experiment first, and feel comfortable wielding this tool.

The Google platform is collaborative by its very nature. Talk with your colleagues, get ideas for implementation, browse sites that have already been created, set up groups to test how things work. Then, when facing that lesson plan that could perhaps use some 21st Century tweaking, you will know if technology is a natural fit.  Start small, and let it grow. Teach each other. Let your students teach you. We're all in this together.


I first wrote about Gapminder in November of 2008, after watching an amazing TED talk by its founder, Hans Rosling. Gapminder is a very powerful tool that visualizes statistical data from around the world. There is a now a section on the site especially for teachers who want to use Gapminder in their education.

See the video:

About Gapminder:
"Unveiling the beauty of statistics for a fact based world view."
Gapminder is a non-profit venture – a modern “museum” on the Internet – promoting sustainable global development and achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
Gapminder was founded in Stockholm by Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund and Hans Rosling on February 25, 2005. Gapminder is registered as a Foundation at Stockholm County Administration Board (Länstyrelsen i Stockholm) with registration number (organisationsnummer) 802424-7721.
Gapminder does not award any grants. It is an operating foundation that provides sevices as defined by the board, sometimes as collaborative projects with universities, UN organisations, public agencies and non-governmental organisations.
The initial activity was to pursue the development of the Trendalyzer software. Trendalyzer sought to unveil the beauty of statistical time series by converting boring numbers into enjoyable, animated and interactive graphics. The current version of Trendalyzer is available since March 2006 as Gapminder World, a web-service displaying time series of development statistics for all countries.
In March 2007, Google acquired Trendalyzer from the Gapminder Foundation and the team of developers who formerly worked for Gapminder joined Google in California in April 2007. (History of Gapminder)
To fulfill our aim, we at Gapminder are currently working on:
  • Keeping our tools’ statistical content up-to-date and making time series freely available in Gapminder World and Gapminder Countries.
  • Producing videos, Flash presentations and PDF charts showing major global development trends with animated statistics in colorful graphics.
All with the intention of being a “fact tank” that promotes a fact based world view.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Planning a Lesson

Use the "My Tech Integration Plan" document (posted on the homepage) to help you get started in planning a lesson/activity/unit that integrates technology. First, I would suggest you take a lesson or project that you have taught before, without technology. It will be more comfortable for you to work with material that is very familiar to you, and just tweak it a bit to try something new. Though a simplistic document, the tech integration plan will help narrow your focus as you begin planning what could become something large in scale.

The question I am asked most frequently is, "How long will this take?" or "How much time will I need?" My answer is usually twofold. One, how much time are you willing to devote to this project? Two, what technical skills will your students need to be able to meet your expectations? Oftentimes we have a great idea that leaps ahead to the final product, and we forget all the little steps to actually getting there. For example, if you want your students to create a narrated slideshow, there are many technologies involved: audio recording (what program will you use? do you have microphones? how will your students save that to import into another program?), digital images (not just researching, gathering, and citing sources, but understanding picture formats, size, and resolution, where to save them, how to import them into the project, etc.), and understanding finished product formats and knowing how/where to save and publish them. Do you think they already know how to do all those things? Do you know how to do all those things?

During the October 8th inservice, you will see a presentation that offers you some practical tips for planning. The most important thing, of course, is for you to clearly establish your curricular goals. If technology lends itself to your project and helps you reach those goals, then it's time to get started. One suggestion offered was to make a sample of the finished product. Dig in and find out for yourself what challenges your students will encounter. You will quickly see what little steps need to be taken along the way to both teach effectively and ensure that what your students create matches your expectations.Taking your project from an idea to a turn in-able file will reveal everything you and your students need to know. Do not be overwhelmed! Start small, and ask for help. That's what we're here for. :)

Inservice Prezi

Prezi is a fantastic web-based presentation tool that allows you to create non-linear presentations.

For a better understanding of the obscure "alot" reference, click here.  Purely for entertainment!

My Delicious Bookmarks

Click here to view my public bookmarks list. This is where I send everything technology-related I encounter online.  If you find yourself moving between computers, or unable to organize your own bookmarks in a meaningful way, I'd encourage you to try out Delicious yourself. Set up an account, install the Firefox plug-ins, and begin your adventure with social bookmarking! You can create an individual account for yourself, or create a group account, and share the username and password with a group of peope you'd like to have gather resources together. I think classes could find this useful for sharing great information they encounter online. Sharing is what it's all about!

Delicious (formerly, pronounced "delicious") is a social bookmarking web service for storing, sharing, and discovering web bookmarks. The site was founded by Joshua Schachter in 2003 and acquired by Yahoo! in 2005. By the end of 2008, the service claimed more than 5.3 million users and 180 million unique bookmarked URLs.[2][3] It is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California. (source: Wikipedia article)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Some Problems in the World are not Bulletizable"

We Have Met the Enemy and He is Power Point
Great New York Times article today entitled, “We Have Met the Enemy and He is Power Point.”  It’s crazy. Can you imagine trying to make sense of this slide? I have no political agenda here whatsoever. I’m merely pointing out that sometimes the technology we choose isn’t the vehicle for clear communication. We always need to be sure we’re teaching our students to consider their audience, and to concisely communicate their big ideas, without letting the bells and whistles of some application get in the way. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Earth Day 2010

Another video to share with you, this one a compilation of activities our Lower School students undertook in honor of Earth Day. They were quite busy, all over campus, and as you will hear from some, learned a great deal along the way about why their work is so important for our environment. Children worked in multi-age groups, which was the extra-fun part of this day, so we had Beginning Schoolers working right alongside 5th graders, with every other age in between.

Thanks to our spectacular Earth Day/Mix-It-Up Day team: Carie Olsen, Kate Riede, Turi Janes, Nick Zosel-Johnson, and Gabriel Newton.

Go Tarriers! Go Green!

“The Stairs” INXS (X, 1990)
“The 3 R’s” Jack Johnson (Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George, 2006)
“Children Play With Earth” Arrested Development (3 Years, 5 Months And 2 Days in the Life Of..., 1992)

Friday, February 26, 2010

LS Winter Olympics

Today we had our very own “Opening Ceremonies” and winter Olympic games for the Lower School. IT WAS THE MOST FUN DAY EVER!!  The video above was shown during the Opening Ceremonies to explain the events and gets kids pumped for competition. Without a doubt we will have hundreds of photos to share from the actual event, as there were photographers snapping pictures everywhere! Check back soon for more.

Go Tarriers!

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Very Special Visitor

Today the LS had an incredible visitor at Town Meeting. Mike Hightower, father of Molly Hightower, came to share some photos and memories of his daughter, and spoke to the children about Molly’s work in Haiti. The CWA community has been busy collecting shoes for Haiti, a cause Molly launched before she went to Haiti to work in an orphanage. Spearheaded by one of our 6th grade students, we have managed, in just a few short weeks, to collect nearly 500 pairs of shoes, and Mr. Hightower spoke to the kids with honesty, tenderness and gratitude for the continuation of Molly’s work. He was absolutely amazing, and we are so grateful to have had him here to talk about Molly, and to put a real face on the necessity of relief efforts.

As many of us had a chance to tell Mike in person, Molly’s story has touched us all and made a real impact on our community. Visit Molly’s blog and read more about her work with the Haitian orphans.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Turkey Bowl

Still loving Animoto. Back in November, our Upper School art teacher, Brian Hutcheson, and I worked out a plan to come on campus the day before Thanksgiving to film and photograph the annual faculty Turkey Bowl. We provided students in his Digital Media Design Studio class with stock footage of the event, and then Hutch let the kids pick and choose what they wanted to use as he taught the students video editing in iMovie. Well, I took a stab at it myself, though I cheated and used animoto instead. Truly a fun day, and I have big plans for next year....if the guys will still want to play after they’ve seen this.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Parenting in the Digital World

If you joined us today, thank you for coming! If you were unable to make it, please feel free to download a copy of our presentation. Simply click the above image to download a PDF copy.

Also, please contact me or Ms. Harris if you have further questions. Some great discussions took place today as we looked at our data. Let’s keep the conversations going!

Here’s a link to the resources we used for our presentation.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thoughts on "Media"

Holy buckets. The definition of this word has certainly grown.

Our 8th graders are in the midst of the MERP. For those of you that don’t speak Sparrow, that’s the Middle East Research Project.  Having spent a number of weeks researching and writing opinion papers on Middle Eastern issues, the kids are now taking their well-crafted arguments and turning them into mini-documentaries. To accomplish this, we have asked that they gather images with which to “bring their research alive.”  Fortunately for us, we have subscribed this year to the AP image archive. Students are finding some amazing photographs out there to use in their mini-docs, which they will create using iMovie.

All this searching for images, however, has led to some very thoughtful discussions about the nature of “the media” and the biases that come with it. Ms. Sparrow’s students have researched some tough and controversial topics, many of which can lead to some fairly frightening images. I have been most impressed with the maturity and thoughtfulness of the kids as they figure out what’s appropriate for their audience, as opposed to what might be pure sensationalism. We are having many conversations around the following questions: Does this picture have educational value? Does it elicit an emotional response that helps viewers make sense of my topic? Would it be appropriate to use an image purely for its “shock value?” How does a newspaper or website know when it’s okay to publish something or not? Do they care?

People today are inundated by media throughout their day. One of the most important things we can teach our students is how to filter and process such an abundance of information.  Putting them in the driver’s seat of creating media provides an amazing opportunity to understand this at a deeper level.

"Separating useful information from oceans of irrelevant data has become the key to understanding the world that we live in."   from this article by Devin Dwyer