Archive for April, 2009

HAGS! (Have A Geocaching Summer)

Posted on April 27, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

by Kevin Merritt, Instructional Technology Facilitator

I don’t know about you, but I think we went from Winter straight into Summer!  State testing is right around the corner, and SUMMER BREAK is within reach!  Don’t forget to sign your students’ yearbooks with HAGS!  It has a new meaning, though.  Have a great summer can become have a GEOCACHING summer!

As you think about what to do this summer – aside from attending the UPSTATE TECHNOLOGY CONFERENCE on June 23, 24, and 25 – you might consider doing a little geocaching yourself.  It is a great opportunity to get outside, absorb some Vitamin D, and have a little fun.   Remember, you need to “catch some rays” for a minimum of 15 minutes per day to get your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin D.  Go have a little fun while improving your health!

What is Geocaching, you ask?  Follow this link for some great information about the sport.  Be sure to sign up for a free basic membership at the main site:  www.geocaching.com.  Once you get in, you can look for caches by address, zip code, or latitude/longitude coordinates.

Now that you are signed up and have found some caches near your location, you need a device that will help you locate these “treasures.”  A car GPS unit will actually work.  Most car GPS units have a screen buried somewhere  in the menu system that shows that latitude and longitude coordinates.  It is typically the screen that also shows the satellites and their signal strengths.  This will do the job.  Keep in mind that the battery only lasts for about 2-3 hours with car units, but it is certainly a great way to start without spending any extra money.  You can also purchase handheld units specifically designed for this activity.  They feature longer battery life and many are designed so that you can download the coordinates directly from www.geocaching.com into the unit via USB cable.

As you look for caches, remember that a GPS will get you within 10-20 feet of the “prize.”  You will have to use your “powers of observation” to actually find the treasure container.  When you look up the cache on the geocaching website, you will find “hints” further down the page.  These can be especially helpful to “newbies” who are learning about the sport.  It definitely can cut down on the frustration of running around in circles for 30 minutes while people gaze at your strange behavior!

There is more information about geocaching than I can put in this blog post.  If you are interested in learning more about geocaching, email me!  kmerritt@greenville.k12.sc.us. I would be happy to present a workshop for you and/or your fellow teachers.  I can also help you select appropriate GPS units based on your budget and interests.  Let me know how I can help you.

Don’t forget:  Beware of MUGGLES!

HAGS!
Kevin

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You Ought to Be in Pictures!

Posted on April 20, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By Fran Mauney

Have you ever heard a parent ask his or her child, “What did you do in school today?” and the student say, “Uh, nothing.”? As a teacher, it was shocking when my students would forget about all the exciting science projects they had done that day or the fun they had at centers or the fantastic stories they wrote during writing that morning.  I found a way to solve that problem, it’s photography!  Each week, the class photographers and I would take 30-40 photos of our activities and I would post them on the website www.snapfish.com.  My students would upload the photos to the computer, then I would send them to snapfish.  Finally, I would email the link to the parents each week.  Families loved seeing their children as they worked with friends, read stories on the microphone, manipulated objects on the Promethean board, played on the playground, and created buildings at the engineer center. 

Now there are so many great websites to publish photographs of students and their work.  I recommend:  shutterfly, dumpr, flickr, photopeach, picturetrail, and voicethread just to name a few. We’ve enjoyed making virtual field trips using these sites and having students comment on the photos.  Students can also publish pictures and work on blogs and wikis.  Here is a blog that was created at SCASL last month after visiting the Greenville Zoo.   Glogster is another site used for making posters and collages.  Finally, for all the scrapbookers and art smart children, they can now make their own designs online using scrapblogs.

So, spend time reflecting at the end of the day with your students about what they learned at school.  Call on each child by pulling a name out of a cup and have him or her tell you what they learned, without repeating what another student said.  That way, when mom or dad asks, “What did you learn in school today?” they’ll be able to tell them a few examples AND share some really nice photos with them.

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Twitterific!

Posted on April 13, 2009. Filed under: Elementary School, General, High School, Middle School |

by Tim Van Heule
Coordinator of Distance Learning

Image from Twitter.com

Do you Twitter? Better yet, do you know what Twitter is? Twitter has been a seemingly hot topic as of late – everyone seems to be “twittering,” even Miley Cyrus for those of you who are Hannah Montana fans.

Twitter is a social networking site that allows users to connect with their Personal Learning Network (PLN) – a PLN is a network of people you chose to be involved with. What’s most interesting about Twitter is that it is a “micro-blog,” meaning you are limited to text-based posts of 140 characters. These posts, or “tweets,” are displayed on your profile page, but are also delivered to the profile pages of your “followers” – those people who have subscribed to follow your posts. You can “follow” others who share your common interests.

Tweets are delivered free through the Twitter website on the Internet, or can be delivered through Short Message Service (SMS) on your mobile phone. Please note that if you choose to utilize the SMS service on your mobile phone all standard text-messaging charges apply – be sure to check with your mobile phone providers before choosing this delivery option.

‘Twitter has become a powerful tool for community organizers, marketers, and others who want to share and receive information in a fast, friendly environment. It’s no wonder, then, that teachers have also found success on Twitter, using the tool to connect with students, share information with parents, and find useful resources” . This blog post lists “100 tools that can help twittering teachers make the most out of this helpful microblogging tool” (BestCollegesOnline.com, April 2009).

Twitter is being used in classrooms worldwide already. “TeachJeffCorwin” is a classroom of sixth graders in  Columbia, SC who want to teach Spanish to TV personality, Jeff Corwin. This classroom provides links and updates about their projects.

Tweets can be sent out to parents, students, and other educators. You, your students, and your parents really have to be clear and concise to get the message out in 140 characters or less! Basically, the importance of the message is delivered, while some of the “fluff” that often fills our communication is left out. One of the challenges with Twitter is sharing URLs in such a limited space. “TinyURLl” is a free site that condenses your URLs into a smaller version. For example, the website for the Upstate Technology Conference is http://www.greenville.k12.sc.us/utc, but with TinyURL the web address is condenced down to http://tinyurl.com/dj5pgn.

Maybe you want to join Twitter, maybe you don’t. However, you may be surprised to find out who is already Twittering… CNN Breaking News, journalists like Thomas Friedman, and even sporting events like The Masters. All of these have their own followers… these followers have chosen to subscribe to tweets in an effort to make learning more personal – choosing to learn about what interests them most.

References

Top 100 tools for the twittering teacher. (2009, April 2). Message posted to http://www.bestcollegesonline.com/blog/

Twitter. (n.d.) Retrieved April 13, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter

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Special Needs Students Need Technology

Posted on April 6, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By Fran Mauney

If only educators could use brain imagery to analyze the architecture of students’ brains, we could actually see the areas in which students learn best.  This would allow us to build activities that correspond to students’ abilities and cause their brains to morph and grow.  Recent brain research shows that the parts of the brain involved in reading, math, music and personal relationships are different in every child.  They are also independent of one another, which brings me to the reason for this blog.  We need to begin thinking of students as a stained glass mosaic with several pieces, some of these pieces show  the areas they are really good at and some pieces show their weaknesses.  Many educators believe if a students is a poor reader, then he is going to be poor in other subjects as well. This is a myth that needs to be destroyed. What can we do as educators?  We can design lessons that appeal to multiple senses.  Teachers can lead students into a new subject through his strengths and interests. Once the student is engaged, he can try a weaker skills set for another part of the lesson and develop another area of the brain.

Special needs students have always touched my heart and inspired me to be a better teacher.  Because of their diverse learning differences (not disabilities), I look for activities that engage them and allow them opportunities to experience success. Technology is the tool that I continue to use to strengthen students’ learning.   When second graders were given the opportunity to visit websites to locate information about famous African Americans, they told me they couldn’t do that because they couldn’t read.  When I sat with these students at the computer and helped them locate the information, I read the words out loud to them as I pointed to the words on the screen.  Next, the students told me the facts they’d like to include on their storyboard and I wrote the words for them.  Finally, the students were able to read their parts into the microphone and record their stories using Audacity .  They were also able to publish their podcasts using Gcast.  These students were so excited and proud of their accomplishments!  Hearing themselves read, editing their pauses using Audacity, and publishing for friends and family on the web, boosted their self-esteem and developed the weaker parts of their brains. 

I think educators can benefit from the special education teachers’ experiences as they help write IEPs and set goals for students each year.  Finding engaging activities using technology will motivate students to work hard to overcome their weaknesses.  Programs like Compass Learning are designed to individualize instruction based on students’ MAP scores.  Movie Maker is another free download that students absolutely love using to create digital stories.  The reluctant reader will gladly insert photos, add titles, transitions and music to bring their stories to life.  Students who struggle with writing, will also enjoy the visuals and dictation of the story with Movie Maker.  Try using technology with your special needs students and give them the opportunities you give the gifted students.  You will be pleasantly surprised!

Visit Allkindsofminds.org for more information about learning differences.

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