Thursday, December 27, 2007

Readability or reading level

Kathy Schrock has long been a great resource for finding excellent tools online. Recently one of her newsletters featured this link for establishing the reading level of a piece of text. As teachers continue to attempt to differentiate instruction and to provide assistance to those with special learning needs, having access to text at different reading levels is critical. Check out Kathy's tips and helps here:

Friday, December 21, 2007

Astronomy Software

I recently visited with science teacher Rose Emanuel. She was very excited about the astronomy software STARRY NIGHT, so I told her I would post it on the blog. The interactive program turns your computer into a "digital observatory." You can find more information at:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Web 2.0 Safety

A Web 2.0 Approach to Internet Safety

Are your students safe in Web 2.0?


Another article on cyberbullying from ASCD SmartBrief

RtI Overview

One way for educators to make data-diven decisions is to apply the principles of Response to Intervention (RtI), an early intervention model that targets students who are behind, allowing schools and teachers to intervene early to quickly close the learning gap. South Dakota has 20 schools piloting this model this year. Read more about it on page 8 of the Spring edition of Changing Schools.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

English Language Learners

From my experience here in western South Dakota I must admit I have come in contact with very few people who are English Language Learners. However, it was not always that way. Having gone to college and studenting teaching in the Twin Cities I had 5 different native languages spoken in my classroom alone. So the article Asking the Right Questions is a great reminder for districts to begin implementation of ELL training for all teachers. It also offers teachers a great tool for including ELL students in classroom discussion. I also believe the insights on including ELL students in classroom discussion can work with our special education students or even those who are simply shy. It's easy for educators to default to those students who always answer but pulling in those who keep quiet is essential for their learning.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I just read an informative article about Wikipedia with all of its positives and negatives. One rule I had in my classroom was that Wikipedia was not an acceptable source for any research project. Did my students use Wikipedia and just not list it on their source page? I am sure many did but there were also those students who used Wikipedia only and were caught. How did I know they were using Wikipedia? I would find information in the paper which I knew was false and would ask them what source it came from and without thinking many said "Wikipedia". At which point we checked the information in other books and they realized it was wrong. It was a great lesson for them in double checking information with sources that are more credible.
It's up to you if you allow students to use Wikipedia in the classroom and I contend that it's a great source for base knowledge but that the students should verify the information with another source. As we all know 2-3 sources is better than 1 when verifying information.

Monday, December 10, 2007

An administrator contacted me recently requesting help with resources on cyberbullying. Jackie and I put together this list and thought it might be helpful to others:

WiredKids, Inc.
What cyberbullying is how it works, and how to understand and deal with cyberbullies.

Stop Cyberbullying: Because we all need to do what we can.
A social network to discuss cyberbullying, identifying resources and solutions to address this epidemic of online cruelty.

The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: From Preschool to High School – How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence by Barbara Coloroso.

Breaking the Culture of Bullying and Disrespect, Grades k-8: Best Practices and Successful Strategies by Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin and Maureen E. Taylor.

Cyber Bullying: Bullying in the Digital Age by Robin M. Kowalski

Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons --- This one is very good. I heard about it on 20/20 a few years ago; then a colleague read it and shared it with me. There’s also a second book by the same author called Odd Girl Speaks Out: Girls Write About Bullies, Cliques, Popularity and Jealousy. The greatest point I learned from this author is that in the adult world, when someone bothers us, we can ignore them and walk on by. We did our kids a huge disservice to tell them, “just ignore it and it will go away.” It doesn’t in their world; it just gets worse.

§ ASCD Smart Brief Dec. 5, 2007
§ Australian "bully buttons" aim to create safer school environmentHigh-tech "bully buttons" are being installed in some Australian schools so students can alert educators and trigger video cameras to record such incidents. "If students are confronted with footage then there can be very little denial, but it also gives us a clearer perspective of what happened because kids often remember their part but don't have an overall perspective," said Thomas Carr College deputy principal Vera Treloar. The Age (Melbourne, Australia) (12/5)

ITunes U for You

I just returned from a meeting/training that explained a little more about ITunes U and how it can be used.
Basically, some of the major universities, including MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, and others have put some or all of their course content online. In fact, some of the courses at Duke now require the purchase of an ipod, rather than a text book. These and others have used ITunes U as a one way to disseminate the information to everyone around the globe. This is an amazing resource. You can get to the ITunes U library and listen to many educational lectures or see presentations, video, slideshow w/audio, etc.
These resources don't cost anything, only to have ITunes downloaded on your computer.
The possiblilities of using these podcasts in the classroom are endless!

Check it out at
Official Announcement:


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Video Games in the Classroom

In a time where kids are saturated with electronics from cell phones, text messaging, instant messaging and more teachers can find it difficult to bring relevant technology to the classroom but one university professor is working on exactly that bringing relevant video games into middle school classrooms. Check out the article below for the full story.

Audio/Music Software and Song Creation

Here are a pair of helpful ExtemeTech articles with software review and how-to for getting started with creating music on a PC:

Three-Way Music Software Comparison featuring Cakewalk, ACID Music, and MAGIX Music
Who needs a band? If you can jot down a few lyrics, wield a mouse, and maybe bang some keys on a MIDI keyboard, you can create your very own music. The process can be as simple as dragging a few readymade loops onto a timeline or as demanding as editing an entire tune note by note, complete with vocals, guitar, drums, and synth.

Sometimes, the question comes down to power or simplicity. That's what we're faced with today, as we examine three software suites that allow you to lay down music tracks to create that song running through your head—the one you're sure would be a radio hit destined to make you a rock star. The offerings are: Cakewalk SONAR Home Studio 6 XL, Sony ACID Music Studio 7.0, and MAGIX Music Maker 12 Deluxe.

Since you have a PC, you're already on the way to carving out songs. You can do it with a minimal system using just your mouse and keyboard and any old sound card, or you can add quality microphones, preamps, MIDI instruments, and all kinds of hardware to augment the programs in this round-up.

. . .

In the second half of this series, we'll get into the nitty-gritty of how to create a song of your very own:
Music Creation Part 2: Create a Song From Scratch

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Getting Rid of Chairs

Is it possible that getting rid of chairs and replacing them with exercise balls with increase student health and achievement? Some definately believe both are possible.

"Keeping Students on the Ball"

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Online Courses Catch On in U.S. Colleges

The first of a two part NPR report.

When today's college graduates get together for a reunion someday, they may decide to do it by computer. That's because right now, nearly one in five college students takes at least one class online, according to a new survey.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A case for Wikis in the classroom

I was asked by a teacher to post some information and examples of how wikis are being used.
Through the Power UP project, (Title IID) I have been given the opportunity to work with teachers to effectively integrate technology into their teaching. My favorite example of wiki's being used by teachers was the 2-day kick off event. We were meeting with teachers in the project and one group of teachers from Faith stayed connected with their students through the wiki. Each day Faith students go to the wiki for the day's assignments and the teachers could modify items from anywhere with an internet connection. In fact, I believe those teachers were making some adjustments the morning of the second training day.
Now, some would worry about students changing wiki spaces, since the idea of a wiki is that eveyone contributes. While the attitude seems to be shifting from a world of 'mine' to 'sharing everything', in the mean time, if you are worried about this, you can set wiki spaces to private and only invite certain members to contribute to your wiki.

Below are a few links where wiki's are being used in the classroom:

Why not just use a regular web page, you might say? I already know front page or dream weaver... etc. because I learned it in TTL.
I am not discrediting those programs, just sharing how different using a wiki would be. With other programs, the web pages are considered 'static' meaning they are often build and never updated. This happens because you usually need to be connected to the server where the webpages are stored in order to save changes/updates. It also takes longer. Wikis can be edited anytime/anywhere you have an internet connection and you don't have to be in the vicinity of your server. As with the example above, wikis can be edited quickly and allow you to move on to other tasks. Wikis are a quick and easy way to keep your web pages updated. And, wikis are free, no programs or software to download or purchase.

Are you a wiki user?