Monday, December 31, 2007

Stay Current with NYSED and RSS

Lately, I've been feeling out of the loop with regards to what's new in education. So I started surfing the web for what's happening around the state and country. During my travels, I discovered that I could subscribe to both NYSED and news feeds using my aggregator, Google Reader.

To add the rss feeds to your aggregator you can visit the websites below and click the rss/xml links or you can copy and paste the .xml links into your aggregator.

NYSED RSS News Feed Directions
News from NYSED:
News from the Office of the Professions:
News from the New York State Library: RSS News Feed Directions News Feed - XML

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Judging is OPEN!

Elaine Plybon, blog coordinator for the Texas DEN Leadership Council, needs YOU! The Irving Independent School District in Irving, Texas, for which she works, has an annual Technology Media Fair. This year, the district has opened up several categories for online judging. The hope, above all, is that this will help keep district students excited about technology and about sharing their work with a global audience. This is where you come in. The contest is in need of judges. Anyone who has an interest in technology in education is qualified to be a judge. All the projects can be judged from now until January 7, 2008. There are six categories and levels from K through 12th grade. Anyone who chooses to judge can judge as many or as few entries as they would like. Would you consider helping with this cause? You can do so by judging, obviously, but also by sharing the word with other education professionals through your own blogs, twitters, feeds, and other social networking venues. The district would love to see judging from all over the world, so let’s get this DEN machine rolling!

To judge the projects, go to and click on the judging link. When judging, please include your name and email address. Your email address will not be published. It will be used for security only. Please expect an email from the administrative staff confirming that the address listed next to your name is a valid email address.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Support Higher Education Opportunities For Students With Learning Disabilities

Did you know that there has been a consistent increase in students with learning disabilities applying to postsecondary education in the past two decades?

Students with learning disabilities deserve the opportunity to be successful in college. However, there is a shortage of special education teachers and faculty on the college level. General education college teachers and professors also require training in learning how to differentiate instruction for students with learning disabilities.

Visit the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) Legislative Action Center to learn more about how you can help support the passage of the current draft of the Higher Education Act bill.

FYI - I just sent this letter to my local representative.

Dear Local Representative,

I am writing to urge you to support the current draft of the Higher
Education Act of 1965 (HEA) reauthorization bill and to encourage you
to vote for the bill when it comes to the floor for final vote.

I strongly support the provisions that enhance opportunities for
students with learning disabilities in their pursuit of postsecondary

I am encouraged and pleased to see that the current draft bill
includes many significant new provisions to enhance access to higher
education for students with disabilities, to address the shortage of
special education teachers and faculty and to improve the skills of
general education teachers in differentiating instruction for students
with disabilities.

In addition, I applaud the data-driven provisions you have included in
the bill that respond to the needs of students with disabilities to
ensure they have every opportunity to make a successful transition
into the adult phase of their lives.

With research-based differentiated instruction and qualified,
supported teachers, students with disabilities will receive the same
access and success as their peers.

Please support the current draft of the HEA reauthorization bill and
strongly encourage you to vote for the bill when it comes to the floor
for final vote.


Ms. Christine Southard

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Happy 10th Birthday Weblog

Thanks to Steve Hargadon for making me aware of the Weblog's birthday at

Did you know that according to wikipedia, the phrase "weblog" will turn 10 on December 17th, 2007? I teach 5th grade, so that means that blogging is as old as most of the students in my class. By the way, my 10 year old students really love blogging.

Do you support blogging with your students? YOU SHOULD! Check out

Then check out this BLOG birthday wishes voicethread:

Isn't this great? Good! Now go blog, and don't forget to include your students. :)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Do You Know About Students 2.0?

Students 2.0 Launch Teaser from Sean on Vimeo.

As stated on the Student 2.0 Site:
For decades, students have been put in classrooms, sat down at desks, and told how to learn and what to learn. For a time when students were expected to become widgets for the vast machine of industry, this model of education was highly effective. However, we are now entering a new age: an age where thinking is more important than knowing, where the thought trumps the fact. Borders are melting away; project teams collaborate across the globe and intelligence is being continually redefined. The world’s information is at our fingertips and everyone can publish their thoughts for virtually no cost.

Everywhere, we see changes: in how business operates, in how people interact and success is accomplished. That is, we see changes everywhere besides the closed bars of education. The system continues to “stay the course” upon a falling ship. Yet, the widgets within the machine are no longer content to grind away. Ideas are popping up everywhere, across the globe. Students are continually redefining their own lives and how they want to learn and interact.

Adults and teachers talk about education and students, but rarely invite students into these discussions. Fortunately, this blog plans to change that by offering an authentic student voice upon education. This is not a gimmick, there's no puppet master: we're intent upon confronting the issues of modern education, never backing down from a challenge. Students 2.0 is a challenge for leaders and teachers alike: are you willing to listen to students?

Add this link to your account and then help spread the word to educators around the globe. Stay CONNECTED.

My Cognitive Learning Environment

In my inclusion classroom, my co-teacher and I use a variety of methods to facilitate learning. As a special education teacher, I feel it is important to teach learners how to learn. My co-teacher and I create lessons based on students learning styles and the strengths and weaknesses of individual students. Every year, however, our class changes. One of the ways we address these changing dynamics is with a learning style assessment at the beginning of each school year. We also begin almost every unit with a pre-assessment to determine if students have prior knowledge/experience with a particular unit or skills.

When one student in our inclusion class fails an assignment, we discuss with that student how he/she studied and if the method they chose may have not met their learning style. When the whole class does poorly, my co-teacher and I ask each other, how can we reteach this lesson to meet the learning needs of our students.

Prior knowledge is important, like Alexander (1996) states, but so is experience with information. Remember that ancient Chinese saying, "When I hear, I forget. When I see I remember. When I do, I understand?"

To encourage information retention in the South Paris Collaborative, we use a lot of multi-sensory activities to help our students learn. As a class: we use graphic organizers, manipulatives, mnemonics, we watch and create video clips & movies, we draw, we act, we write, we blog, we podcast, we play games online and off, and we have discussions. We do all of these activities concurrently, and when we have time, we repeat them again. Repeated exposure in different modalities improves memory and understanding.

My experience is that multi-sensory learning environments help students to be more successful with learning. It is also my experience that project based learning provides students with a more authentic experience and a rationale for retaining information.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink

If you haven't read A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink, you should. The premise of the book is how our once left brained society is becoming more right.

Here is an article written by the same author back in 2001:
School's Out: Get ready for the new age of individualized education

FYI - The Discovery Educators Network is presenting a free webinar with Daniel Pink on December 12th. Follow this link to register.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Power of Inclusion

Everyone has their own definition of inclusion. Mine is best defined by my new online teacher friend Mr. Brian Crosby. He created this movie with his fifth grade students to show how they used web 2.0 technology to be inclusive of all the members of their class.

Last year, Mr. Crosby had a student named Celeste, a student with leukemia. While she would be a student on his roster, she would not always be able to attend school because of her chemotherapy.

After learning about Mr. Crosby found a way to include Celeste as a member of his classroom. Watch this "Inclusion Movie" that Mr. Crosby made with his 5th grade class during the 2006-2007 school year to explain how they used Skype to stay connected with Celeste while she was out of school.

Read Celeste's reflection on her classblogmeister blog.

Mr. Crosby is a true pioneer in the inclusion revolution using teachnology in the classroom. Kudos to him and his class.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Differentiated Podcasting Podcast

Check out this podcast I created with my teacher friend Amy Thomas. It is a post on differentiated podcasting.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Blogs in Plain English

If you still don't quite understand the concept of blogging and why YOU should blog, read other peoples blogs and then comment, then watch this Lee Lefever video titled "Blogs in Plain English." Blogs connect people, they help to create your network of go-to people in the virtual world of the web. I learned about this video from my online friend, ijohnpederson. Who will you share this video with?

Don't forget to comment. Let's stay connected. :)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Renew Your Spirit

Feeling overwhelmed? Watch this speech by Jimmy Valvano accepting an ESPY award in 1993. This will help to renew your spirit. Thanks to Chris Lehmann & Jen Wagner for sharing this on twitter, it made my heart swell. This clip will remind you to enjoy life.

*Be warned, it's a tear jerker.

One of my favorite quotes from the speech:
"To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."

*Jimmy Valvano passed away a few months after this speech after a battle with cancer.

Gmail: Behind the Scenes - For TEAM

While surfing my google reader, I came across this video through a recent delicious post on Lucy Gray's blog site, A Teacher's Life. This video is a mashup of videos sent in by google maniacs to help us imagine how an email message travels around the world. All it took was a video camera, the Gmail M-velope ( ), and some creativity. This is a creative, open-ended request of googleites that received a great response. Google's guiding question asked people to imagine and create. Using this video as a guide, what question could you pose to students locally/globally that would illicit this type of creative response?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My Fall Girl - Animoto Remix

My first Animoto

I'm a "Right-Clicka." What are you?

*Thanks to Ryan Bretag for sharing this video on his blog, The Four-Eyed Technologist.

What is YOUR ideal laptop? P.C. or MAC? What specs does it have? What applications could you not live without? What color is it?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Constructivist Learning Environments

Constructivist learning environments focus on giving students authentic, real-world, ill-structured problems to solve. As a teacher, I could easily administer constructivist learning lessons using the open ended structure of the Hannifin, Land and Oliver model. Or, I could pursue the prescriptive model of David Jonassen.

In my fifth grade classroom, technology is an integral part of all learning. To facilitate learning about the U.S. Constitution, I would begin with the Hannifin model, I would give them an online rubric of information pertinent to our 5th grade curriculum and NYS standards, scaffolding on the previous year's curriculum and successful IEP goals. I would set up a situation where the students are required to find out this information to post on their blogs, for our blog buddy classrooms. Our buddies in Canada or Latin America will be sharing their own government history on their blogs. Edited 11/9/2007: To make the activity more constructivist, I would apply this situation:

Dear Student,
Pretend you are a delegate at this time in history and that you are responsible for the order of first 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights prior to their placement in the U.S. Constitution. Pretend you dropped them on the floor and they are now all out of order. Research to find out what the first 10 amendments were, and re-order them by importance based on your opinion. Explain each amendment and then explain why you ordered the amendments the way you did. You may use the following resources in your research in addition to your textbook and class notes:

Videos/text on the Constitution:

Students could use the library or internet to gather the information they need to improve their understanding of the Constitution of the United States. However they choose to find the information and present it would be totally up to them, but here are some web 2.0 tools for them to consider for their presentations:
Using the Jonassen model, I would need to consider more complex learning structures for students, so they would learn from their failures rather than their successes. Opportunities for challenge via web quests or educationally appropriate video games meet the requirement for the Jonassen model. Debates with other U.S. schools via skype would also create learning opportunities with various cases and multiple perspectives. These were some online applications that I found:

A New Nation Scavenger Hunt
Constitutional Debate Webquest (Modified for Elementary Students)

While constructivist activities such as the ones shown above can be of a collaborative nature, the success of teamwork and collaboration can be negatively impacted by group dynamics. Collaborative teams should be made to reflect a delicate balance of experience, creativity, strengths and weaknesses.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Discovery Education Network, NY DEN

Attention TEAM Members,

Last Friday afternoon, I attended an exciting event with the NY DEN. In case you've never heard of the DEN before, this is for you:

The Discovery Educator Network (DEN) is a global community of educators passionate about teaching with digital media, sharing resources, collaborating, and networking. With over 25,000 members providing professional development to over 250,000 educators worldwide, the DEN connects teachers both on-line and in-person. Discovery Educators have exclusive access to a wide range of resources, professional development activities, networking opportunities, exclusive Discovery Educator events and more!

The DEN is affiliated with United Streaming, a great online media source for teachers. United Streaming a super tool for teachers who have SmartBoards in their classroom. The students enjoy watching the online educational movies on the virtual SmartBoard hearth, and as a teacher, I love the content and other digital resource including: audio, images and text.

There are many perks to joining the DEN. There are more perks if you become a DEN Star Educator. One of the perks was being invited to attend a DEN event last Friday that included an IMAX movie and dinner. Visit the NY DEN blog to see the pictures.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Tech Forum New York

Yesterday, I spent the day at Tech Forum New York, at the IBM Palisades Executive Conference Center . The conference was established by Technology & Learning Magazine. IT WAS ONE OF THE GREATEST CONFERENCES I'VE EVER ATTENDED! This conference exceeded my expectations!

I attended the conference with my co-teacher, Lisa Parisi. We love using technology in our 5th grade inclusion classroom, the South Paris Collaborative and we were very excited just to be in the presence of tech gurus such as Alan November, David Jakes , Steve Dembo and Ryan Bretag. To our surprise and Lisa's outgoing personality, we actually ended up connecting with each one of them. It was f2f networking at its finest.

Alan November was the keynote presenter. If you haven't seen Alan, go see him. He is an interesting speaker. The part of his preso that surprised me the most, was when he polled the audience about which educators were giving students the creative license to use technology in their classrooms. Lisa and I were only two of few who were raising their hands. (We were, the teachnology minorities in the room, at a TECHNOLOGY conference! Go figure!)

Not surprisingly, technology played an important role at this conference. However, the technology I'm talking about, didn't have anything to do with the presentations; it was all back chatter and social networking. People were tweeting away on Twitter. Lisa was streaming live on UStream , and there was a lot of action in the UStream chatroom from people all over the world! In addition, Lisa and I started taking conference notes through a shared Google doc that we created. When we found our twitter friend, PJ in person at the conference, we invited him in too. Ultimately, we had so much information being shared between the twits, google docs, and UStream conference chatter, Lisa took the initiative to create a wiki for the conference in wikispaces. Follow this link to the TechForumNY wiki, where you can access UStream footage from the conference and read through the chat.

David Jakes was another presenter at the conference and he was FABULOUS! He presented two breakout sessions that Lisa and I attended on Digital Storytelling 2.0 and 21st Century Cartography. David shared a wealth of information on digital storytelling and a number of ways that teachers could use the GoogleMaps & GoogleEarth in their classrooms. He has inspired us to revamp many of our upcoming projects because of all the information that he shared. We can't wait to show him the end results. Thanks again David. It was great meeting you!

Another unique opportunity that presented itself during the conference were the breakout round table discussions. For approximately 45 minutes, I met with various educators (teachers, principals, IT staff, etc.) to discuss Technology and Special Education. We had some interesting conversations about the lack of technology in some districts compared to how teachers utilized the technology when they had access to the tools. While a Google document was shared between all the participants, I hope the conversation will continue on the Inclusion Revolution Ning that I created.

All in all, in alliance with the goals of the conference posted on the TechForum site, I most definitely gained a a year's worth of insight and empowerment in one day. I had a wonderful lunch with a new network of friends in a productive yet casual setting. My new pals include David Jakes , Steve Dembo, Ryan Bretag, Gwen Solomon, PJHiggins, and David Gorecki. Together, we explored groundbreaking education technology solutions through great discussions online and off. We listened and learned from each other, a group of renowned K-12 technology experts, innovators and educators.

Nassau BOCES - Technology Summit

Greetings Edufriends,

On October 15th, 2007, I attended the Nassau BOCES - Technology Summit at the Hilton Long Island, in Huntington. The conference focused on using technology to develop 21st century learners, providing strategies for teaching students to use technology to learn content and skills so that students can engage in: knowing how to learn, thinking critically, solving problems, using information, communicating, innovating and collaborating. Does this sound like your classroom?

We live in what is quickly becoming a digital world and as teachers we need to prepare ourselves for our 21st Century digital learners. We're teaching in a teachnology revolution and it is important to keep up with what is new in technology and Web 2.0. Right now, students could be blogging, collaborating on wikis, or connecting globally through audio/visual communication. Many students are using these web tools at home, and we as teachers should not expect our students to power down or unplug once they're at school. Engaging students improves a teachers ability to maintain student interest, facilitate learning and to improve classroom management.

The two keynote speakers were David Warlick and Karen Cator.

Resources for TEAM:
David Warlicks 2 Cents Worth
Partnership for 21st Century Skills

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Graphic Organizer Queen - Mind Mapping Evaluations

As a special education teacher I am always looking for new ways to brainstorm and organize information for all of the students in my class. This is how I earned my title as the Graphic Organizer Queen in the South Paris Collaborative. I believe that learning how to brainstorm and map out information helps all students to make connections and scaffold on prior learning. It was because of my passion for graphic organizers that I welcomed the opportunity to evaluate some offline and online mapping tools.

The first program I didn't truly evaluate was Inspiration. "Why didn't you evaluate it?" you ask. I didn't evaluate it because it is a program that I already use at school with my students. It is mapping program that is student and teacher friendly. The students are comfortable with the program because it is taught in our computer classes and it is readily accessible on all of our school desktops and laptops at school for in-class use. There are no login issues, the clipart is grade school appropriate and the skill of mapping within the program is easy.

While I enjoyed playing with the remainder of online applications, I did not find them appropriate substitutes for the elementary students that I work with. First of all, you need an e-mail address and login skills to access these programs. Another issue was that some of the programs required a flash download or upgrade. Lastly, these programs are free, so some sites automatically made your brainstorming available for public viewing, others gave you limited access to all of the functions, and many only provided you with a few free organizers until you decide to pay for their services.

I did, however, find these online mind-mapping sites an interesting way to collaborate with my grown-up peers. My favorite online mapping tool was Mindomo. The site was professional looking, my brainstorming ideas were easily filed and the icons for creating a mindmap were very user-friendly. Despite these perks, I was sad to discover that I was not able to edit the document in real time at the same time as my TEAM team. Looking at the upgraded version, only $6 a month, the list of perks did not mention this important feature. That makes me unhappy.

The other tools I assessed were:

  • basic icons/tools
  • no font changes
  • help movie included text: "Screenshots Suck" - not appropriate for el. ed. students
  • diagram was immediately available for public viewing
  • lots of applications
    • floor plans, flow charts, etc.
  • icons were very small
  • time consuming to establish account (waiting for confirmation e-mail to arrive)

Brainstorm in real life with your students by using these
Graphic Organizer Resources & Printables
Houghton Mifflin Company - Graphic Organizer Pdfs
Eduplace - Graphic Organizer Pdfs
TeacherVision Graphic Organizer Printables

Sunday, October 7, 2007

FYI - K12 Online Conference

In case you didn't know, the K12 Online Conference keynote is going to take place tomorrow @ 8:00 am, New York time. David Warlick is the Keynote Speaker.

If you've never attended, please visit the First Time Attendee section of their wiki.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Windows Movie Maker

I attended my first EVV Workshop this past Saturday at the CW Post Campus. The focus of the course was how to create and edit movies in Windows Movie Maker on a PC. While the practice movie [music video] that I made was not educationally based, I do believe that the Movie Maker application has great potential both for teachers and students in the elementary classroom.

Here are some Movie Maker ideas we've accomplished/discussed in our 5th grade classroom:
  • Act out the plot of a book
    • Students are responsible for script, clothing, settings and props
      • Some of our students created settings/backgrounds by drawing them in the pages of the SmartBoard notebook software before we videotaped
  • Use student writing to create unique videos
    • Plays
    • Puppet Shows
    • Claymation
    • Drawings/Cartooning
  • Create Vodcasts about:
    • Classroom News
    • Current Events
    • How to Videos (Math Skills, Study Skills, Etc.)
    • Mock or Real Interviews
      • Interwrite Learning Video Contest
        • Show everyone your classroom’s talent and technology in this video contest! Your song-parody video could be your school’s ticket to fame and $15,000 in interactive classroom technology, plus hundreds of lesson plans and other content—an Interactive Makeover™

Here are some ideas/uses for Movie Maker that I found online:

FYI - Movie Maker Tutorials

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Consume, Contribute, Collaborate

Inspired by Nancy Sharoff's blog post Web-Cubed, I'm inspired to think about web 2.0 in a whole new light. During this technology revolution in history, our once READ/WRITE web is constantly transforming and growing in leaps and bounds. Its now a space where web-heads are not only able to consume information, but they can contribute and collaborate in real time on a flat, global playing field.

I consume a lot of online information daily. Between my three e-mail accounts, rss feeds, and the sites I choose to visit; new information is always here or there for me to consume, evaluate and process. I am, however, not limited to oohs and ahs witnessed by the many computer screens in my life. I can venture out and respond in an unlimited amount of ways. An e-mail response, a tweet to twits, a blog comment or new post, a podcast, or a video confession on YouTube or Teacher Tube. All of these places provide me with a space to vent, whether or not anyone is listening. However, if you feel a connection, we can always commiserate or celebrate together! E-mail me, send me a tweet, leave a comment on my blog, invite me to Skype or Second Life, or let's chat in Google. The possibilities are endless!

Let's collaborate together and expand on the virtual space that is our world wide web; web cubed!

Friday, September 14, 2007

My Hope & Dreams For TEAM

I entitled this blog post My Hopes & Dreams for TEAM, because the assignment so closely resembled a blog assignment that I recently gave to my fifth grade class at the SouthParisCollaborative. The students had to write about their hopes and dreams for fifth grade and I'm happy to share that the majority of the students were really interested in improving their technology skills. I'm so happy to be working with such a great bunch of tech-savvy children! I'll keep you posted of their technology feats as we progress through the year.

As a member of TEAM I'm looking to fine tune my technology skills and to learn about what's new in educational technology. While I have worked with a variety of applications online and off, I want to better understand the technology I've been integrating into the curriculum for my students and I also want to learn about what's new and upcoming, since technology is constantly changing and never stagnant.

After attending some conferences this summer, I've learned how important it is to play to learn. I'm eager to attend the TEAM program and workshops because I want to be able to play with what's new in educational technology. I also hope to connect to people who are just as passionate about web 2.0 as I am. Collaboration is important to me.

Sometimes, I feel like a hybrid of sorts between a digital native and digital immigrant. Between all of the new Google applications that I use and recently downloaded itunes subscriptions, I almost always feel up to par with what's going on. But even while I'm sitting here, the technology sometimes seems to be moving faster than anyone can keep up with, even the digital natives. It seems there is so much to learn in such a small amount of time that by the time most people have seen it, it's either outdated or tweaked with a new download for updating.

I hope being apart of TEAM will help me to better navigate and alter the world wide web as a digital citizen. I want to help prepare my students to be 21st century learners by embracing the fact that I'm a 21st century teacher. I dream of doing great things with educational technology as a member of the TEAM.