Saturday, August 29, 2009

Blogging for Better Schools

August 15th marked our blogaversary, which by the way is a real word, at least according to Urban Dictionary. Hard to believe an experiment turned out to be such an exciting project.

I started playing around with the idea of blogging after hearing several national speakers at a conference. I kept blogging because I realized it is a great tool for communicating, sharing, and organizing ideas. The blog is work…. words do not always come quickly. However, I find the work is worth it.

Blogging helps me to clearly articulate ideas. I have to really think about what point I am trying to convey while being clear and succinct.  I  use the blog to capture what occurs in meetings. Better than minutes, I can show quotes, graphics, pictures and/or videos. The posts are tagged so I can quickly reference them if needed. I find I can frequently send a link in response to questions or topics that come in meetings, which is a huge time-saver.

I absolutely could not have been convinced until I tried it myself.

“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”           author unknown

What are you willing to try?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners

All the school districts in my region and many others across Pennsylvania have access to Discovery Education, discoveryed probably best known for streaming video. When I searched for streaming videos 116,458 results came up which can be further refined by grade level, subject area, type of media etc... Folks most often think of video clips or even full length videos and they would be right…. but there is much, much more.

Discovery also has:
  • Songs (466) – Multiplication raps, ABCs, Homophone Blues, Tornados & Hurricanes to name a few…
  • Audio files (48) – speeches, historical events, and more
  • Images (20,828) – historical events, historical figures, places, animals etc..
  • Writing prompts (603) – still pictures combined with a writing prompts historical people/events, careers & a large number for literary analysis. Prompts can be copied and/or edited to customize for teacher needs.
  • Clip art (1184) –Most of the collection is for the elementary grades
  • Sound effects (3088) – animal sounds, applause, weather and bubbling lava are some favorites.
  • Quizzes (2077) – pre/post assessment quizzes to accompany videos
Discover also has Builder Tools for teachers to create their own:
  • Assignments
  • Writing Prompts
  • Quizzes

And so….. well for me the so what has two parts: differentiated instruction & the economy. I literally cannot go anywhere and not hear about either. Yet here is a tool that is likely under utilized by the majority of teachers, includes content based on PA standards and is available in a variety of formats (visual, audio and text). What a wonderful tool to differentiate instruction!

If you have access to Discovery Education, survey your teachers for what services they use and help connect Discovery to on-going district or school initiatives e.g. writing across the curriculum, differentiated instruction etc...

Bottom line a subscription service such as Discovery Education costs the same for schools that use it to its full potential as it does for schools that do not. In this economy can we afford not use every tool we have to its potential?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Making Blogging a Breeze

Windows Live Writer is an awesome  tool for blogging!

I use Live Writer to create all my blog posts. It provides more features and flexibility to make my blog more attractive and efficient. I can work on drafts without an internet connection, preview the post to see how it will look on the live blog, and I can even set the date for the blog to automatically publish.

It’s a free download that is compatible with the major blog services e.g. Blogger, TypePad, Wordpress and more….  picture menu

My favorite feature is how easy it is to resize, align, and caption photos. Live Writer also allows you to add borders and effects to photos! Just insert a photo and a tool bar will appear as shown here. The default is inline, but a drop down box allows for you to set the picture to the Right or Left and wrap text.

The next drop down box is Margins. The default is no margins, which often leads to your text running right up against the photo and ruining the appearance of the blog. Select Customize Margins and increase the margins to the Top, Bottom, Right or Left depending on how you want your photo to look.

Finally, use the third drop down box to customize a border around the photo or picture. These include photopaper, instant photo, reflection, rounded corners, solid lines, shadow, and none.

One word of caution: Windows tries to install a number of other programs with Live Writer. Be sure to read the directions carefully! Otherwise Windows will try to install multiple programs and set some of them as defaults.

If you’re a blogger, want to be a blogger, or help people with blogging…. Windows Live Writer is worth checking out!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Write Now! Video Prompts

I was gathering resources for writing across the curriculum in preparation for a meeting with one of my districts and rediscovered an old favorite, PBS channel 39 Write Now! video prompts. The series was developed by WLTV with teachers from the Lehigh Valley. Each prompt begins with a short video and then segues to a writing prompt. Check out my favorite Nose Ring

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Livin on the Edge

We ended our 36th annual Summer Administrative Workshop with Harvey Alston.  He wowed our audience with his energetic presentation. His stories and observations were often hilarious, but underneath was a very serious message. He advocated for the audience to look beyond circumstances, Harveypetty thoughts, negativity, personal agendas etc….to put students first! Mr. Alston took on many topics during is address, but I was surprised by his take on technology. His motto is………….

“If you are not livin on the edge, you’re taking up too much space!”

Simply, our students live in a technologic world and we need to keep up if we are going to prepare them for that world. He believes that trying new things and engaging our staff to do the same is part of giving students our BEST!

While I embrace Mr. Alston’s perspective I have to confess there are days when I think if I come any closer to the edge, I am going to fall off! It’s tough to try new things. It takes longer, feels awkward, and is just plain hard! Yet some folks persevere, while others avoid new technology.

How can we get people to the edge and keep them coming back for more?