Starting Over

This year I started a new job in a new district.  I’d worked in my old district in several capacities for nearly 20 years.  I knew the staff, they knew me. They knew I was always eager to share a new technology tool, knew I was some what of a Discovery Fanatic, knew that if they needed a website for a specific skill, I could find it.  With the new job I barely knew the staff in my own building, they knew very little about me.  I did not want to start off on the wrong foot and did not want my enthusiasm for technology (and Discovery) to alienate people. I was reluctant to send out links and suggest web tools the way I normally would.

The year is almost over now and I’ve gotten to know the staff in my building and they me. The science teachers are now aware of the districts Discovery Science subscription and a couple social studies teachers are trying out the new Techbook. Best of all, one of the science teachers is joining me at the New England Day of Discovery tomorrow! I’m sure she’ll leave the event with a better understanding of what Discovery and the DEN have to offer and will help me increase the use of Discovery our building. Maybe we’ll have a new DEN Star soon!  Its been a challenge, teaching a new class in a new district and I’ve probably learned  more than I taught.  This year is not quite over – but I’m looking forward to next year already.

Summer’s End

Well, I certainly didn’t plan on waiting this long to write this post! Time has gotten away from me and students return on Monday.  This summer I was privileged to attend DENSI 2012 in Montana with fellow Connecticut DENStars Jamie Nodell and Jane Mortellino.  We had a wonderful time, (my injured hand aside) meeting other DENStars, learning about changes to Discovery, and exploring all types of  tech toys and tools.  This is truly one of the most outstanding professional development opportunities I have ever been a part of.   Now it’s time to look toward the next school year, which, for me means a new district and a new job.  I am getting to know my new co-workers and trying to learn how they use Discovery.  I’m already sharing Discovery connections with them including Karen Ogen’sPolar Bear site.  A new year and a new adventure!

Jennifer, Jamie and Jane

DENSI Hoe Down

Citizen Scientist

Years ago my daughter asked us to connect our kid’s computer to the SETI network to help search for extraterrestrial life.  For a year or two their old desktop would work for SETI whenever it wasn’t busy in a role-playing fantasy chat room or schoolwork. That was our first venture into the world of “Citizen Scientists”.  Currently I’ve been helping to research light-pollution by reporting an estimate of the number of stars visible in my backyard. Volunteers around the world gather data during February, March and April. Join in this week and report your starlight.  The process is very simple, especially if you have a smartphone or other mobile device, navigate to Globeatnight, set your device to night view and go outside at least one hour after sunset.  Look for Orion and compare the number of stars you see in that area to the charts on the site. Select the closest example and submit. You can even get your students involved and compare notes in class; which students live in the darkest areas of your town? For more information on light pollution, including lesson plans and projects, you can check out the companion site .  There are many more Citizen Scientist opportunities but it can be difficult to sort through them and find the best project to involve your students. SciStarter is a place where scientists can share their projects. This site allows you to filter by project type (i.e. at home, at school, exclusively on-line) or topic (i.e. Astronomy, Birds, Climate).   You can read about various projects but you must register with SciStarter in order to join the project. This website can connect almost any classroom to a Citizen Scientist project, join one today!

QR Treasure Hunt

QR codes have been popping up all over schools lately but did you know they don’t need to be limited to website links? As a matter of fact, you don’t even need Internet access! Using the QR Treasure Hunt site (http://classtools.net/QR/) you can create codes for a series of questions and answers that automatically generate as text on your QR code reader. Most QR code generators allow you to create encoded text, Classtools allows you to keep questions and answers together, create multiple codes at the same time and view them on the same page.
Hide the codes around your classroom or the school, divide your students into groups (each with a mobile phone or iPod touch – with cameras). The students decode the questions and write down their answers. the questions could be review, synthesis or requiring additional research. Students can even create their own hunts for their classmates to follow. For an excellent example of a Treasure Hunt used in conjunction with an investigative history project, check out ActiveHistory (http://www.activehistory.co.uk/Miscellaneous/menus/history_mystery/qr.php)

Connecting With Your PLN

Wednesday I joined several hundred other educators from around the world at EdmodoCon – an online conference. Webinars like these and the ones offered by Discovery, EdWeb and other professional sites are a fantastic way for teachers to connect and grow in their chosen profession. If you are not familiar with Edmodo, it provides teachers a closed, secure way to communicate with students. It also provides teachers with a means to connect and share with other professionals. As you join different communities you will have opportunities to connect with teachers from around the world. Clicking on a teachers name will take you to their profile page where you can learn more about them. Most of the skills needed to use Edmodo you already know from other social networking sites. You can join specific communities of interest – Gamification of the Classroom, SMART (or other interactive board communities), Computer Technology, or of course, Discovery Education. Once teachers begin using Edmodo to connect with their peers in the district they rapidly begin to see the value of connecting with their students as well.

What a Summer

Summer is about half over and its been a busy one for me. Immediately after school let out I went to ISTE and about a week after returning I was fortunate to be able to attend DENSI 2011. Both events provided an overwhelming opportunity for professional growth and learning. It was my first time at both events and there were times that I felt lost and alone (quite a feat at ISTE given the sheer number of attendees). I think attending these type events is easier if you go with a friend.

I’ve been spending this past week trying to organize everything I learned – in hopes that I don’t forget more than half of it! I have begun sending a series of emails to teachers in my school with short descriptions of things I hope to be able to share with them in the coming year. I learned how to use Premier Elements to make a Stop Motion video at ISTE and how to use green screen at DENSI. While I think both have potential for my school, I think green screen will be easier to integrate into our curriculum, easier and less expensive since we wouldn’t have to buy any software. At DENSI I learned how much material is really available to us through DIscovery, and how to use that material with other apps to create mash-ups – I think my students will enjoy that technique.

My second email to the staff included a brief description of Google search videos – an interesting tool although I’m not sure how the students would make use of it. I sent them a copy of a BINGO sheet I got at DENSI, each square is a different option for project types. I modified the sheet to reflect PC options where the ones listed were MAC. I did notice at DENSI that most teachers were using MAC OS laptops – alongside their iPads.

Which brings me to the topic for my next post – tablets.

How the States Got Their Shapes

A new series on the History channel, covering the ways our country’s physical geography influenced the state boundaries. Episodes can be streamed from the website or purchased via iTunes. Current episodes include a look at how water defines some states; the impact of transportation; ways geologic events and even meteors helped set the boundaries; and “rebellious” states. You and your students are sure to learn something you didn’t already know.

http://www.history.com/shows/how-the-states-got-their-shapes/episodes/how-the-states-got-their-shapes-episode-guide#slide-4

Seeing is believing?

It is important to teach our students that they cannot always believe what they see in the media – all media. I have my students cut themselves out of a picture in Photoshop and insert the image into a different background. After the activity we discuss how easy it is to change an image. A recent, widely printed, photograph of the White House staff monitoring the attack on Bin Ladin provides a teachable moment. A Brooklyn based Orthodox Jewish newspaper edited the women out of the image. They did not just obscure them, but removed them all together, making it look as if they had never been there. Showing the edited image alongside an un-edited version has led to some interesting discussions.

http://tinyurl.com/5t9v69y

KidBlog

I’ve wanted to encourage teachers to get their students blogging but the process often seems confusing and less secure than they’d like. KidBlog to the rescue! Designed for elementary and middle schools, teachers can set up their class so that each student has their own blog. The teacher can set the level of security they like or that meets the district AUP. Teachers can choose to monitor posts, all comments are automatically sent to the teacher for approval. this looks to be a fantastic way to get some real world writing practice for students of all ages.

Flip News

Well, I suppose it was inevitable but the ubiquitous cell phone camera has caused the Flip to become extinct.  Cisco has announced it will no longer make the camera so watch for prices to fall as stores try to sell out of their stock.  Kodak is still making several versions of USB enabled video cameras, including the Zi8 which features an external microphone jack and the various “play” series cameras.  I will not morn the Flip since I have a Kodak Zi8 and have ordered several for my school.   I find having the external microphone jack essential when recording students and the software bundled with the camera (Media Impressions) is very useful.  I have several digital photoframes which would not play videos, Media Impressions has a converter which makes them playable.

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