Monday, December 15, 2008

Marzono's 9 Best Practices - Cooperative Groups

A bit of pedagogy please. A renown educational guru, Robert Marzano came up with 9 instructional strategies to help students learn. (Since it is mostly teachers who read this blog, I'm sure this is not news to you). One of my assignments in my Digital Classroom Study is to take a strategy and go techno on it. Well, I found a web site: But I didn't think that would get me the grade I wanted, since the assignment was to use it in my class... problem, this assignment is due in two days, and I am now just looking at it. But the angels are looking down upon me, becasue as I scroll down the web page of Marzano's practices I come across this Cooperative Groups. For the past month my students have broken up into different reading groups, going through level animal novels and doing all of thier assignments on the wiki. Here are just a few of the assignments:
  • On Kidspriation students created a setting plot for the story Poppy and uploaded the image as a jpg on our Wiki.
  • Students took different characters from the novel and found different pictures that represent that person's character traits.
  • Students wrote summaries together about the chapters they read.
  • Students started discussions on some of the issues brought up by the novels. Other students commented.
My first Wiki adventure is not as polished I would have liked it, but it was fun, and I am very glad my class entered into this adventure with me.

Go check it out!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Great Sites for Kids and Parents

I spent the weekend in the south (south of OKC that is) and I was talking to my aunt whose son is in the third grade. I introduced her to some great computer programs, and it made me think, maybe others would benefit from these sites as well.

Spelling City (

Okay, this might be a program that has been talked about some, but its still worth mentioning. This site has a option for students, parents or teachers. I use it some as a teacher for the practice aspect, but I think students could use this site to just practice spelling in general. It includes games, practice tests, different lists and more. Go check it out.

Big Branz Time Attack (

This is a game you download onto your computer. It is a real video game designed by the same people who create some of the high end play station games. A little troll goes through this castle and he has to "conquer" all of the multiplication facts to move on. It is a game that lends to conceptual understanding as well as reviewing the "facts". My third grade cousin really got into it. After playing it for a while, you can save the game and go back to it. Try with student struggling with multiplication and see if it helps.

Until next time, this is your Tech Rich Classroom Teacher going on to find ways to make teaching easier.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Classroom Wiki

Okay, this one I need lots of help with: My Classroom Wiki. I have started with reading; all of our reading groups and their assignments are on the wiki. It's actually really cool. They are embedding photos, starting discussions, and creating their own pages. It is just beginning, but I want to do more. Help me gang. Please comment and tell we what you are doing to your wikis and tell me how you are doing it. I just want to get better and better.

Fishing in Technology

It has been about a month since my last post. I have been dabbling in e-pals, diving into my classroom wiki, and helping students create voice threads. On the other side of life I have been preparing for a Thanksgiving household of 15 people. Which brings my rambling to the point to this post, technology fishing.

Did I lose you? We simply don't have time for everything. Since my last post I have been to some technology meetings, I have gained several technology ideas, and have read loads of blog posts on what others have done. The problem is, I am still trying to really get the hang of what I started working on way back in September. I credit Tammy Worcester for this piece of advice: Technology is like a fast flowing stream. We just need to get in there and catch something. The key word here is something. We can't get it all, and we can't use it all, but what we catch we use, and then go back for more. So keep blogging and reading blogs. Keep working on your wiki and joining wikis. Keep using tools like e-pals, visual ranking, and voice threads, but don't sweat it if it doesn't all happen at once... there will be more tools, better updated versions, and improved projects. No we can't do it all, but we can do ... something that is. Catch technology when we can and then go back for more when your all done.

Thanks for reading my post... now go fishing.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Technology Mangement

Okay, I have to admit... I have been stalling for two weeks on blogging. For this reason, I know what I want to blog about but am totally lost on how to do it. Let me explain. I try to look up some great web site or view a great webinar and then post on it. Well I am full of great ideas, but I am having a heck of a time using them. For example, I love the idea of voice threads, but I haven't found out the most efficient and practical way to create on with my class. I also have found lots of neat web sites the reinforce my lessons, but they all take a while to get on and get into, that by the time the students begin to play the game, thier time for that lesson is done.

So I need your management ideas. Plese comment on what your greatest management idea has been. I need something like that.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Reaching Out

Most of the people reading this realize this is a blog written primarily for the class "Creating a Digital Classroom". I have grown to enjoy this blog, so don't fall under the impression that this is just a blog full of different assignments. However, I feel I do need to mention some of the assignments I have been doing for the class, that way my "Professors" know that I am doing the required work.

One of my assignments was watch some of the NECC 2008 presentations. I went to NECC this year and it was very informational. However, watching some of the presentations I missed has sparked a desire to continue on this tireless crusade to change education to fit the needs of the 21st century. Here are two prenentations I observed and caused me to think differently about things..

Taking it Global:

I am not going to give you anything you can't read for yourself on the web page. I just joined and am anxious to see what evloves out of my membership. I am cautioning myself though. Taking it Global seems big and at times overwhelming. I want to get to that stage, but I thought I could get my students talking across my own district, county, and state; then eventually grow to bigger projects such as Taking it Global. Another barrier is the age of my students. Although fourth graders are becoming more independent, they are not completley there yet and need a lot of help and guidence when participating in large projects presented on this site. Check it out, I am going to. Maybe we can do a project together.

David Warlick:

David Warlick is one of the greats, but his message is similar to others: Preparing students for a future in the 21st century means
changing the way we do things in education. Warlick specializes in literacy in the 21st century (blogging is his specialty) and has a lot of links to brain research (one of my favorite topics). He's got a good site and is worth checking out.

Alan November:

I saw Alan November in person during NECC. He is well worth the hour of sitting. A couple cool things I learned from him. (1) - This is a site where people invest thier money into a thrid world country buisness, and the investors/ givers actually get paid back with a small amount of interest. How cool is it when we give to ones less fortunate and they can give back. (2) This fun little tidbit: When you google the word "november", Alan hopes to be in the top 10 hits. Today he was fourth. He said he will always be below Wikipedia, but that is just because of Google and Wikipedia's buisness partnership. Go ahead try it. See where he is on the day you google him.

Okay, nothing earthshattering or life changing I know, but definitely thought provoking. Below is the site to the NECC podcasts which has links to the three confrences I watched. Oh, and by the way, when you are watching the podcasts, try to get someone to watch with you. That way you can chat as you watch (makes it more enjoyable and more 21st centuryish).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

How to Run a TRC Classroom

This title is misleading. You might think that I will give you a detailed plan to run a technology classroom flawlessly... I won't. I will give you some of the tools I have relied on heavily that helped me manage my classroom.

Port - a - Portals

A site that I have linked to my class web page. Anytime I have a link I want to use in class, I just send the students the our class port - a - portal, and there we are.

Google Pics

I love this Google feature, and so do my students. We put vocab words into the image and quickly find picture relating to our topic, person, vocabulary word. Google images is one way our learning has come life.

Fun Brain/ Math Brain

My students start at their own grade level or a grade level lower, and work their through the different games. This is a good game when you have some extra time during math where students are engaged and they are learning at the same time. Students love Math Brain.

I realize these are not the newest or latest resources on the web, but they help me in simple ways to manage my classroom. Hope these are helpful.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My Father's Dilema

My father turns 60 on Monday. My mind is on him and his life. Basically, he is like millions of other American dads... grew up in the 60s, loved the Beatles, fought in Vietnam, came home, met his wife, settled down and raised a family. What makes my dad different, he's my dad!!!

No really, my father lived a life that consisted of the evening news and the morning paper. When my dad took off in his fuel delivery truck everyone morning, he left human contact behind, not to be bothered again that night. My dad lived a very contented life, not hectic and not complicated.

My dad's life in 2008 looks much different. My dad's favorite channels are CNN and the Weather Channel. He flips back and forth between the two so he can constantly be updated on the news of the world and weather in our region. My dad can no longer use his truck as a get away from problems or stressed of life because everyone has his cell phone number. He thinks there is something suspicious with the computer (Internet) and does not like his grandkids being on it all the time. My dad no longer enjoys the hard work he does for his job, nor does he respect his boss. "There's too much change, " he states. "Everything is on the computer. I just can't keep up."

My dad doesn't feel like he fits into this computerized world. So what does that mean for the next 20 years of his life? Will he simply stop living? (I hope not.) So why am I blogging about my father, a man who has no clue on what a blog even is, when I am suppose to be talking about a technology rich classroom? I am focused on helping our students flourish in this digital world we live in, but I am just as determined to help the "digital immigrants" stay afloat. I get tired of hearing my elder peers say, " I don't have a brain like yours. I can't keep up?" I know the world looks different. I know things have changed, but Baby Boomers, you have a lot to offer. Don't just give up on the world and its digital way - dabble in it. If you don't, the younger generations won't hear your wisdom and your experience. I know the Internet can be an overwhelming experience at first, but swim in it once and a while. Look at what the generation of today is doing, there are some good things out there. I know you don't understand blogs, but come visit mine. You'll see I bragged about you and your hard work and determination.

To those who are new to the digital way of doing things, my hat is off to you. Your generation started the "free thinkers" movement in the 60s. Your generation helped our country to flourish. Your generation invented the Internet. Thank you for all the things you have done. Stay in tuned to the digital age so that my generation and the one after me can continue on with your successes in the digital way. Don't disconnect from us, please.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Lessons from A Technology Rich Classrooms

Let me just say right now, this is my very first blog post and I have been putting this off for over a year. So it is time for me to reflect on what I have learned from managing, facilitating, and being part of a Technology Rich Classroom.

Lesson 1: Never rely on your plans working perfectly. Have things go they way you want them, HOW BORING!

Starting from the from the first day my technology classroom was implemented technology (last year) to last week, technology always has a chance of failing. So what do you do, you keep moving on. So you can't get to the web site you wanted, you go to Kan - Ed or Google and quickly find another educational site for the students to look at. So you can't get a creative program to work, you pull out markers and crayons and tell the students to do the rough draft on paper. So half you class cannot log in to their computers, you turn your assignment into a partner assignment. Two heads are better than one.

Lesson 2: You are no longer smarter than the kids. Who wants to be smarter than 4th grader anyway?

This is one of the toughest lessons for seasoned teachers. This is one of the toughest lessons for arrogant adults. This is one of the toughest lessons for human beings period. Nobody wants to be outdone by those below them, not teachers, not adults, not even 4th grade students... but with technology and all that it has to offer, you no longer can know it all. I had to learn to let go of making my precise lesson plans and let my students figure out some of the details along the way. On that journey of letting go, I learned loads of new stuff too. I also fostered great leaders. My students suddenly became teachers, mentors and leaders to their classmates. It was wonderful lesson, a little frightening a times, but a huge stress off my shoulders. Chaos you say, I say creativity.

Lesson 3: You are never there... and you are never done.

In most things you reach a certain point, and you are there. Well not in technology. I faced a terrifying realization last year... I will never be there. As long as I teach with technology, focusing on engaging students, and creating an environment stimulating to the mind I will never be done either. Does this thought seem overwhelming? Yes it does... but it also seems satisfying. I am a teacher, not a cook, a mechanic or lord forbid an engineer. What I mean is I can't just cook a meal, clean up, and call it good. I can't just work on a vehicle all day, and when the clock strikes 5:00 I'm out of there. I can't leave work at the office and get paid overtime for the evenings and weekends I put in. I am never done cooking up ideas, I never call it quits, and I very rarely get paid overtime. That is the crazy, beautiful thing about teaching, especially teaching with technology.

One more note: A huge thank you to the engineers, cooks, and mechanics who do work overtime overtime to make our lives better; who do cook meals, clean up and get ready for the next one; and to the ones who put in extra hours just to make our lives better. Thank you.