Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blogger's Groove

Mrs. Martinez's students have got their groove on! Here's how we approached the Week 7's Edublog Student Challenge:
  1. Review what we've done so far -- which also sparks excitement.
  2. Look at the Edublogs Student Challenge. 
  3. Narrow it down to the three of activities we are most excited about. 
  4. Split the class into three groups.
  5. Collaboratively work through the writing steps.
  6. Share and celebrate our posts.
The Writing Steps, A Collaborative Effort
  • We brainstorm in a think-pair-share format.
  • Discuss and decide the outline of the blog, such as the main points of the introduction, the body, and the conclusion.
  • Decide who will write which part. If more than one student wants to write about it, that's fine, they can work together. If nobody is interested in writing one of the ideas from their brainstorm, then that's fine too, and they leave it out.
  • Students start writing (use paper if computers are being used). 

Collaborating on Google Apps
  • We let a group of students go to the 6 computers in the classroom to start this process. They compose their writing by sharing one document in Google Apps.
  • For now, it's easiest if the teacher sets up a template with their outline and who will write where.
  • Edit/Revise with partners.
  • Note when sharing equipment: It's key to have time limits to rotate the students to the computers. If they don't finish, then they either move to the teacher's computer, and she can help with the final steps, or they can jump back on the computer later in the day. Some elect to finish on paper to not lose time.

Variation of the Brainstorm -- Using Answer Garden
What was your favorite part of Science Night? Answer Garden

We brainstormed on Answer Garden. I liked that it took less than a minute to set up, and limited the students to just a few key words.

Answer Garden would also be fabulous for word choice, evaluating strengths of a post/comment, or brainstorm titles of a post.

Tip: When you are done with the Answer Garden,  take a screen shot to share it instead of embedding the open discussion box on Answer Garden. Anyone can go in and add to the discussion on Answer Garden... and it won't always be monitored.

Teacher's Time

In class, we mainly facilitate, set goals, and discuss the writing process/mechanics in context. 

We still do the final editing to make sure the layout looks okay. The visuals are mainly our efforts because students are still learning how to do this. 

Tagging, categorizing, and placing the Edublog Student Challenge URL in the trackback area is also something we take care of.

Tracy as Coach

Even though I love the classroom, learning with the students and Mrs. Martinez, I also know it's time to step back to allow Mrs. Martinez to take lead, and for me to be more of a side-kick. 

Today Mrs. Martinez to did most of the facilitation. She's in the groove. I will continue to step back more and more to allow this to be entirely hers. 

Questions to Ponder on Blogger's Groove

I'd love to hear from you, whether it's to share your insight or to ask questions.
  1. What's worked for you to maximize time for blogging?
  2. How have you gotten the students more involved with the final editing of the layout, tagging, categorizing, trackbacks, and inserting pictures? What advice can you share? 
  3. What questions do you have for me on blogging or as my role as the Technology Integration Specialist?
  4. Anything else you wish to comment on?
This post was inspired by my blogging experiences with Mrs. Martinez through the Edublog Student Challenge. Thank you Edublogs! PS I'm putting questions back in my concluding remarks. :-)

    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    Great Leaders Focus and Build Teams

    Forbes blog post, "Suddenly Noticed By Big Investors, Kevin Tanner's RIA Is Bracing For Billions Of AUM," caught my attention as I thought about educational leadership.

    Kevin Tanner focused on his strengths and passions. "He was never as interested in financial planning and spent his time perfecting his investing methodologies."

    He wasn't content with running things the way others did just because that's how it's always been done.

    Great Leadership

    Great leaders invest in their strengths and imagine the possibilities. Great leaders see where they are going, plan for it, remain focused on the goal, and know how to develop others.

    John Maxwell, author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, describes this as "the law of navigation." The fear of change doesn't hold back great leaders because they intuitively strategize and plan for success.

    They value the strengths of others, and recognize that building other leaders and tapping into their strengths just makes them better at what they do.

    Kevin Tanner knew this. He hired people to do all the non-investment tasks so he could focus on his strengths and passions -- investing.

    Tanner's company, Saratoga Research & Investment Management, is in the top 1%.

    Connecting Leaders and Learners

    Building relationships and connecting is key in this process. Lyn Hilt addressed this point in "Becoming the Lead Learner" on the Connected Principal:
    We must connect. If you’re capable of connecting and learning from those in your physical realm, consider the power of building relationships with other inspiring educators from around the world. Too often we think: how could that person’s experiences help me when their schools and circumstances differ so greatly from mine? That’s precisely the reason we can learn so much from one another. I have as much to learn from a high school principal in an urban school setting as I do from an elementary principal in a neighboring district. The varied perspectives are invaluable.
    Invest in Others

    Leaders invest in others to pursue their passions and try something new.  When we target the goal, such as pursuing what's best for learners, then change should be expected.

    Jeff Delp's posted about helping others develop their passions on the Connected Principal. Check out this true story of passion, vision, and using their strengths:

    It's a journey that can't be done alone. It requires a team working together towards a common goal.

    Great leaders know investing in others as leaders are worth every ounce of energy, because in the long run everyone profits.

    Personal Connections

    I  am slowly connecting the dots to what leadership means. As I do, I notice leaders everywhere. Some I barely know, but recognize their building others in their classrooms and PLNs. Some, I have the honor of working with and appreciate their dedication to building team. Other leaders I've known my whole life, and never thought to pause and say Wow.

    Final Thoughts

    I'd love to hear what insight you have to share about leadership!

    How do you build relationships and connect with others?
    What else makes a leader great?
    How do great leaders build team?

    This post was inspired by great leaders who connect with others. Thanks to Kathleen Morris, Linda Yollis, Miss W, and Sue Waters for all you do to build others. Thanks to Larry LaPrise for investing in and building leaders. Thanks to Jon Castelhano for believing in me, encouraging me to do my best, and having strengths where I do not. Special thanks to Kevin Tanner for being an inspiration to me my entire life -- I love you Big Brother and am so proud of you!

    Sunday, April 24, 2011

    Blogging and RSS

    I don't want to make the same mistake I've made in the past of going all in teaching everything I know about a topic all at once. Professional development needs to be tailored to the readiness level and rolled out in layers over time.

    To be honest, it requires discipline on my part to not share everything because I'm excited and want to push on to the next step. The other day I held a class introducing blogging and RSS through Google Reader. My goals were to introduce them to what blogging was, and how they play a role in education.  They serve as self-selected professional development and a way students can share with an authentic audience.

    It's important to tier professional development training in layers just like I would new content for students. In a one to two hour training, less is more. That means introducing less new concepts is more effective than introducing many new concepts, especially when it comes to educational technology.

    There are some who were ready for more, so pointing them in the right direction is key. I plan on personally connecting with each of them. Making my first bundle for them was also guidance towards the next step.

    I want to thank Edublogs for the Teacher Challenges. They guide me, taking one step at a time. Thank you!

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    Choice Boards for Language Arts

    A teacher recently asked me for suggestions for her choice board to differentiate a novel. 

    Options for Choice Boards for Differentiating Novels:
    • Become one of the characters in your book. Decide what motivates him/her and what his/her goals are. What would that person want to achieve or need from others if this person were alive today? Using the digital medium of your choice, persuade the audience to ... 
    • Maintain a Google Form or Wiki page in QAR (question-answer & relationship) format during your reading.
    • Act as a news anchor or reporter and publicize an event from the book. You may use the digital medium of your choice such as a digital video, Voki, etc.
    • Rewrite a scene from the book as a script for today or the future. What would be the same/different if the setting were different? 
    • What is the author's theme? Create an original fable or folktale to explain that theme, moral, lesson, or commentary on life.


    I  focus on the learning standards, and make sure it is meaningful to the students. I use Bloom's Taxonomy to pick higher levels of thinking, which also cuts down on kids copying/pasting something that's already on the Internet. Having students create products that could be published on the web are also favorable. Furthermore, I try not to limit them to certain technology tools; however, giving suggestions is always important.

    • What ideas would you add to this list?

    Thank you, Lisa, for always wanting to push learners to the next level, and for your willingness to tap into others.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Power of Vision

    Changing culture requires a change in expectations of behaviors. Those behaviors will produce beliefs, which will affect culture... and it starts with the vision.

    I applaud Dr. Wilson, AJUSD Superintendent, for focusing on what's best for learners. As a result, AJUSD's shared vision is “Arizona’s First Choice … Excellence In Everything We Do.” 

    The plan to fulfill the vision shoots for College Readiness for All, by concentrating on one-to-one opportunities, individualized instruction, project based learning, and 21st century learning through rigor, relevance, and relationships.
    The decisions made in the district connect back to the vision, and ultimately the question, "What's best for learners?"

    I want to thank Steven W. Anderson for retweeting -- RT @: Greatest video on power and vision. I wouldn't have found this without your Tweet. Thank you Dr. Wilson for the vision.

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Creative Commons, Copyrights, and Google Images

    Where are the lines and boundaries for copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons? Copyrights extend to photos, music, art, ideas, etc. Fair Use can be difficult to understand, open to interpretation, and if I understand correctly, don't extend outside the United States. So, if I'm running under the assumption that it's okay to use the image if attributed correctly, then what if the image was from contributed from outside the U.S.? 

    Digital Citizenship

    I try to get teachers to think outside the four walls of the classroom, and how technology allows us to connect with others around the globe. The last thing I want to do is upset someone on the other side of the world because I used an image that was acceptable under Fair Use for Educators, but not acceptable on their part of the world. Now what?

    Create my Own

    I love creating my own. Hey, I minored in fine art in college, so it's natural for me. Do I have the time to create my own? Not always, and others can do a much better job than I.

    Creative Commons

    There is an answer, it's called Creative Commons. Dare I share that I hadn't heard of Creative Commons prior to the Edublog Teacher Challenge?

    Types of Creative Commons Licenses

    There are a few different Creative Commons licenses. Always give credit to the original, and it's best to place a link directly to it.

    Key: CC means Creative Commons

      Attribution By -- You allow others to use your work the way you've requested, provided they give credit to you.
    the ND = means NoDerivs (no derivatives) the original can't be changed.
    the SA means Share Alike, which means others can make derivatives (changes to the original), but can only license it identical to the license that governs your own work.
    the NC means Non-Commercial, so you can't make a profit off of it.

    How do I know if the images are under Creative Commons?

    Sue Waters made a brilliant post on searching for Creative Commons in the Edublogs Teacher Challenge. I can use her suggestions when I'm at home; however, I found using Compfight (on safe mode) and Flickr CC weren't viable options to use within my school district. I discovered the Advanced Search in Google does allow you to search Creative Commons.
    Step 2. Advanced Search

    Searching for Creative Commons in Google
    1. Go to
    2. Click on "Advanced Search." This is just to the right of the search box.
    3. Click on the + to expand the "Date, usage rights, numeric range, and more."
    4. Step 3. Expanded Date, usage rights, ...
    5. In the "Usage Rights," select the license you wish to search for.

    Step 4. Usage Rights
    Giving Credit Properly

    This is what should be cited:
    • Credit to creator
    • Title of the work
    • A link to the URL where the work is hosted
    • The type of license 

    My Pledge 

    I pledge to do my best to share this information with others, walk the talk, and educate students and teachers how to use Creative Commons.

    I want to thank Edublogs Teacher and Student Challenges for introducing so many to Creative Commons. Thank you Techie Brekkie for your post on Creative Commons. I want to thank ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries andInnovation through Creative Commons Australia and the Copyright Advisory Group of the Ministerial Council of Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs for the information on searching for Creative Commons in Google.

    Friday, April 8, 2011

    Authentic Learning through Edublogs

    As the only Technology Integration Specialist in the AJUSD district, I focus on technology that fosters student learning. I spend over half my time in the classroom with students and teachers. I always tailor it to the teacher's readiness because I want the teacher to find it practical and beneficial to continue what we've started, even when I'm not physically in the class helping.

    The Edublogs Class Challenge is a wise investment of time because the students learn with a meaningful purpose, and the teacher continues with the blogging. It's her blog and she loves it. I am thrilled about our success!

    Today we set huge goals, and have completed many of them. 

    Now that the students are used to the procedures of blogging, and how we use our time, we can dive into it more. 

    Tips for Managing Class Blogging
    • Graphic organizers help with success, by allowing them to focus on their task. 
    • Collaborating on one document in Google Apps has been extremely beneficially with time management.
    Google Apps Collaboration

    This is the second year these kids have used Google Apps, and possibly the first time we've had so many of them collaborating on the same thing at the same time. 

    It helped to have one student create the document and share it with everyone working on it. Then we gathered around and discussed who should type which part. Then the students typed it up. Afterwards, we revised together. Our last step was teaching them how to insert hyperlinks. They loved their results!

    Student Posts

    Portions of the original post based on the Edublog Student Challenge is pasted below. I've included hyperlinks to the students' posts we completed today. I know they'd love your comments, so please take a gander.

    Our goals for blogging this upcoming week are:

    Finishing Challenge 1 Tasks:

    A -- Group 1 Blog Prompt: Why should students and classes visit our blog?
    • Let's finish this challenge by typing up what we had written

      From Challenge 2:

      C -- Activity 2: Create a class poster or video about our commenting guidelines

      We get to do the next step, which is teach others about making quality comments by using our commenting guidelines.
      • Sum up the guidelines. Then copy/paste them into
      Create your own Animation

      Challenge 3 Tasks:

      E -- Prompt for Activity 1: Write a post about our widget tracking visitors in the sidebar of our blog. What do you notice about it? Then, go to 2 other blogs in our Blogroll and compare and contrast widgets that also track visitors. What do you like about theirs? Remember to leave links so others can go see.

      H -- Prompt for Activity 4: Even though we did not take part in World Water Day, we did take a field trip to Project WET. What did we learn? Why do you think World Water Day is important?

      Challenge 4: How do you find your way around a blog?

      J -- Prompt for Activity 1: How is our blogroll categorized? How are others organized? Use your graphic organizer to take notes. Compare and contrast them.

      Blog Challenge 3 and 4 Graphic Organizers.

      This post was inspired by the Edublogs Student Challenge. Thank you for providing this opportunity for students around the world!

      Wednesday, April 6, 2011

      A Day of Tech P.D. for Educational Services

      It was such a pleasure to provide professional development for our Educational Services team.
      Google Form -- Pretty, isn't it?

      I loved using technology to start us off. In a Google Form, they completed a survey. The form had three sections. It had some questions to collect data of their prior knowledge. There was a section on norms where they checked the boxes of norms they thought were suitable for today's training, and an option to type a norm in. The  norms that the majority agreed on were:
      1. Be positive.
      2. Help each other out.
      3. Be willing to try.
      4. Have fun.
      They also wrote three descriptions for the Ed Serv team. We then took those descriptions and created a word cloud in Wordle.

      What I liked was modeling how easy a Google Form was to use. We viewed the summary of data to show what areas we should focus on. Plus, it got them thinking about how they could use this in their own professional development.

      Create your own Animation
      Thanks Theresa Bartholomew for Fodey idea!
      Other topics of the morning were:
      • Back Channel
      • Introduction to wikis through Titan Pad -- so we could use the "chat" as our Back Channel, and we could take group notes in the wiki space.
      • Doc Camera basics specific to the two types of doc cams in the district.
      • SMART Board basics specific to the different sites.
      • An introduction to blogs -- we had enough time to check out my BlogRoll and briefly touch on the role of blogs in education.
      • The majority of our time was looking at Google Apps features, documents, and forms. There have been a few changes/improvements that we went over.
      It was encouraging to hear the discussion on how they could use these in the next professional development they provide and amongst themselves. 

      I want to thank Heather Wallace for asking me to do this and for brainstorming what things we wanted PD on. I absolutely loved planning and facilitating today. Special thanks to Theresa Bartholomew for co-facilitating during portions of today. I loved learning with you all!