Archive for February, 2008

Growing Up Online

Posted on February 29, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

by Tim Cushman

Watch the PBS Frontline Special Growing Up Online: Just How Radically is the Internet Transforming the Experience of Childhood?

Ask any teacher with more than fifteen years of teaching experience about the current generation and he or she will typically respond with a single word – different. Different, because the traditional way of teaching is a striking contrast to the way in which most students interact with technology during their leisure time. I think my own educational experiences as a child are similar to that of most Americans on the wrong side of 30 – absorb facts via lecture, read the textbook, memorize terms and definitions for the test…repeat. Definitive knowledge was canonized in encyclopedias and textbooks and was meant to be mastered for those with enough diligence. The idea of “media consumption” was unheard of and was primarily encapsulated in the form of radio programming and network television – both mediums limited for me. Cable television was a luxury and not something that held much value for my parents. I spent many afternoons and weekends reading or exploring the neighborhood with my friends and siblings.

Contrast that image with today’s student inundated by technology. Social networking sites, texting on cell phones, on-demand entertainment, portable gaming…it’s all a little much for most adults who grew up much the same way I did. Many teachers and parents are unfamiliar with the virtual world and are so intimidated by the pace and volume of all things digital that they simply leave their students/children to traverse this world alone. This disconnection has become more than a generational gap. The ubiquity and ease of Web applications has made socializing easy and very addicting. It is vital that parents and educators familiarize themselves with both the potentials and pitfalls of the Internet, particularly the social aspects. Children need adult guidance in the virtual world as much as they do in the physical world.

PBS’s Frontline program aired a special in late January 2008. If you missed the original broadcast, you can view the program at the PBS website by clicking here. This program is a primer of sorts on current trends. We educators are always pressed for time, so I suggest starting with part 2 of the program (9 minutes long) – A Revolution in Classrooms and Social Life. There is also a teacher’s guide if you would like to incorporate some of the activities into your classroom.

One final thought that will not be pursued in this post, but is important nonetheless. Education does need to change. I strongly suggest reading the article from Marc Prensky titled Backup Education.

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Follow-up on Interactive Whiteboards

Posted on February 22, 2008. Filed under: Interactive Whiteboards |

Follow-up on Interactive Whiteboards
by Tim Van Heule

There have been some great comments regarding an earlier post on interactive whiteboards in the classroom – specifically Promethean Activboards and SMART Boards. I must apologize to the Hitachi Starboard community for not including them in the original post, but as I have no real personal experience with the Starboard, I can’t really write about it.

So why the follow-up? Mostly because of the following comment…

Hi! I am amit. Could you please give your expert opinion on the following article:

Purchasing an Interactive Whiteboard

Overall, I thought the article was well written. It covered all of the important aspects to consider when purchasing an interactive whiteboard for the classroom or in regards to a larger scale project.

I think one of the most important things to consider though is the level of support that comes with the purchase. Who is going to troubleshoot the issues? Who is going to repair broken or damaged components? Who is going to replace missing pieces?

The level of support that comes with the purchase is key, especially with larger scale projects.

Be sure to discuss this with the sales people before finalizing the purchase…

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TeacherTube and Slideshare

Posted on February 16, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

by Tim Cushman

“What do you think about YouTube?” The question came from a ten-year-old at the end of a recent workshop on Internet Safety for three hundred 4th and 5th grade students. The question was posed in earnest but not in innocence. For this young person, like many “digital natives,” YouTube is a major landmark on the Internet landscape. I shared an anecdote about how I had recently used YouTube for a “how-to” video tutorial on a home improvement project. The video was exactly what I needed to get the job done quickly without a trip to Home Depot in hopes of finding an associate with some carpentry experience. I expressed my belief that YouTube is a reflection of the Internet itself – it’s all about where the user chooses to navigate.

YouTube does have value for the educator because of its shear size and openness. Unfortunately, YouTube is also a bad idea for general classroom use for the same reason. If you would like to explore YouTube through the educator’s lens, check out this Edutopia article from author Chris O’Neal. However, you will have to take the tour from home since YouTube seems to be blocked by every school district in North America (and rightly so). Instead, take a look at TeacherTube.

TeacherTube is a video-sharing website based on the YouTube template. It was born out of the desire for sharing “classroom safe,” user-generated content within the educational community. The result is a repository of lesson ideas for teachers, demonstration videos to enhance student understanding, and recordings of lessons from other educators. Users can search by keyword, by video popularity, or by subject area.

TeacherTube is a growing site and will only get better as more educators upload content. See what one teacher did to teach his students about the Transcontinental Railroad. Another educator posted a video on how to use Microsoft Excel to make a classroom poster. A teacher in Spain created a short presentation on emerging web technologies and their bearing on language instruction.

Slideshare ( is a Web 2.0 site designed for users to post their presentations. Slideshare is not designed specifically for educators, but it does hold educational value. A word of caution: Slideshare can contain material not appropriate for the classroom, so do not let your students loose on the site. This is the type of site you would use at your own work station during lesson prep. With that being said, Slideshare does have some very good presentations for you to download to be used during lesson delivery.

To get the most out of Slideshare, click on the “Community” link along the top navigational banner. Next, click the “groups” link. You will see “Education” listed. You can also do a simple keyword search on the home page of the site, but I like exploring the educational community of Slideshare for getting ideas.

I love the Slideshare presentation titled Shift Happens. This is an excellent presentation to show during a staff development workshop. The presentation deals with globalization, technology, and the impact on education (a topic addressed by Thomas Friedman in the book The World Is Flat). You will also find a good presentation on Web 2.0 for the classroom here.

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Free Training Opportunities

Posted on February 13, 2008. Filed under: Teachers |

Free Training Opportunities
by Tim Van Heule

Everyone loves trainings… especially FREE trainings.

South Carolina educators are fortunate to have the opportunities to attend SC ETV Technology Workshops multiple times throughout the year, another such opportunity is fast approaching – April 22-24.

The great thing about these workshops is that they bring together passionate educators from around the state – both public and private – who are all truly concerned with appropriate and effective means of technology integration into the classroom.

Topicsfor this set of workshops include Web 2.0, Interactive Whiteboards, Digital Storytelling, Geocaching, and much more.

These sessions fill up quickly, so interested parties need to register as soon as possible.

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    The School District of Greenville County – Instructional Technology Department


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