Friday, April 30, 2010

Is "Boring" okay?

So I finally had a few minutes to finish my word association tally project that I was doing to see what students thought about school.  I had students do associations about other topics such as summer, sports, family etc.  However, this is the only one that seems appropriate for this blog.  This is the results of the grade 4 students that I completed the activity with.  Don't get me wrong there are some good words in there that are fairly large....learn, fun, friends.  However, what hits you in the face is "BORING" big and bold right in the middle.  I was expecting a "happier" graph from this group of students which leads me to my question.

Is school by definition "boring" for students?  No matter what we do are the majority of students going to be bored?  And what responsibility do we as teachers have in making it as "un-boring" as possible short of free for all game play not related to school?

How does a teacher balance content and boredom?  How does a school keep a student engaged and interested (ie not bored) for 7 hours a day?  Is it an unrealistic expectation?

Thoughts, please.....

Microsoft Mouse Mischief

Perfect timing for our class, right. Microsoft has released a new (and free) tool call Mouse Mischief. It allows a teacher to share control of a Powerpoint presentation with their students using mice. It allows teachers to create and administer Powerpoint using the same mice. Checkout the site ( to get more details and get a download.

It will work with our version of Powerpoint but it only supports 5 mice on XP.  Having Vista or Windows 2010 will support more users.  I have to think the clicker folks are looking for ways to make their products better since much is what clickers give you for a price, Microsoft is now giving you for free.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

21st Century School

Great video showing where all schools need to headed....but are we moving there fast enough?!

Kerry's Web 2.0 Resources from OneNote

Presentation Tools
- SlideShare
- 280Slides
- Prezi
- Picsviewr

Video Tools
- Animoto
- Gizmoz
- XtraNormal

Mobile Tools
- PollEverywhere
- Jott

Community Tools
- Edmodo
- Google Docs
- Wikispaces
- PBWorks
- Ning
- Classroom2.0
- ThinkQuest
- Yugma
- SMART Board Revolution
- CreativeCommons

Best of the Rest
- Wordle
- Glogster
- VoiceThread
- SmileBox
- MakeBeliefsComix
- Class Blogmeister
- Dabbleboard
- WiZiq

Other suggestions:

- Audacity
§ Free audio editor
- TimeToast
§ Online timeline creator
- Obsurvey
§ Online survey creator
- Jing
capture anything you see on your computer screen and share it an image or short movie.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Almost Too Painful to Watch

Opposites Attract?

This video brings together a love of mine (the Beatles) and something I detest (informercials).  Enjoy!

Online Quizzing Tools.....Data Collection

Last week we talked about the software we had in-house that we could use to assess learning and gather data for formative assessment purposes.

There are plenty of free online tools available for you to try out and see what you like best.

Obviously we can't show them all to you, but we do hope you play and find something that you can use.

ProProfs Quiz Maker

Not all of these tools will give you student by student break downs.  Each has their advantages and disadvantages.  If I need instant results then GoogleForms and PollEverywhere are my best option.  If I want to "by student" results then my best bet is GoogleForms (with some report working), ThatQuiz, Respondus/Blackboard, or the TurningPoint clickers.  As far as each of use it is hard to beat GoogleForms.  Can you tell I'm a bit enamored by GoogleForms' potential.


A new survey tool (that is free for now at least) is Obsurvey.  From what I have seen I really like it.  Pulls results fast and nice reporting options.  Check out my demo survey.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sample Google Forms Quiz

Several weeks ago I asked my 5th graders as part of a collaborative typing assignment to list words they associated with school.  Needless to see the results were not shocking but still made me sad.  Part of me wants to dismiss this and say that kids need to suck it up and work hard to ensure they get the best education possible. While another part of me wants to say that we as teachers need to take a hard look at how kids see school.  For  grade 3 students homework is what they associate with school.  Recess and gym are also big concepts for them.  Fortunately so is math.  Again boring is large, although not as large as for 5th grade.  Can I make a jump here and say that students in this grade might benefit from active learning.  Recess and gym (both active) are big concepts.  Perhaps active learning will mean less boredom for our students.  And I'm not sure if it is a pipedream, but can we do something with homework to make it more active.  From my Wordle I can't make necessarily associate negative feelings with "homework" as that wasn't part of my survey.

We had been working on defining a vision and procedures for homework in our building.  However, the work is slow and does not show any sign of being complete in the very near future.  We've done all the reading on homework that we can put our hands on and we still can't come to agreement on the purpose, value, and best use of homework.  All I keep thinking is that if homework takes two years (plus) then grading will take many more years.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tech TuneUP class update 4.23.10

Kerry and I met after school today to talk about the rest of class.
The end of class is really coming up quickly and we realized that we simply did not get done what we had hoped to do.  Chalk it up to an overly ambitious plan ;)
Several people have asked for an update on requirements related to successful completion of the class.
We will publish this post in email, OneNote, the TechTuneUp blog (
We meet next week (April 27th) and at that time will go over several other formative assessment tools that are available online.  Kerry will demonstrate how to use Poll Everywhere, an online survey tool that can be completed by the computer or a cell phone.  I will show how to use Google Forms as a way to administer quizzes and gather formative data.
The remainder of the April 27th class will be used for work time. 
We had hoped to do some work with Excel and analyzing gathered data from your formative assessments but think that is practical with the limited amount of time we have remaining.  However, if you gather some data and would like to take a shot at the analysis please feel free to bring to one of the remaining classes. 
Then on May 4th we have our last session.  We will allocate plenty for project work and then end the class by sharing our projects with each other.  Since we have 25 people in the class, we know that sitting through even a 5 minute presentation by each person might not be the best use of class time we are looking at doing more of an open house where people rotate through a number of projects at any one time.  That should allow us to both get the information on the projects in which we are most interested and get us headed home before dark.
As far as assignments we have assigned the following:
1)      Identify and make progress on a significant project of your choosing that is beneficial to both you and your students. 
2)      Subscribe to a number of feeds in Google Reader, create a blog and post several posts each week during class to share your new learning.  By the end of class we would have had this assignment in place for about 5 weeks so 10-15 posts seems reasonable.  Remember, we are trying to building new PD habits and posting 12 times the night before the last class doesn’t really accomplish the intent of the assignment.
3)      Experiment with on assessment technology tool we studied in class (or one you’ve found).
4)      Proudly share what you’ve learned in this class and accomplished on your personal project during the last class.
Kerry and I are so pleased with all the work and great discussions that are happening in this class.  At the same time we realize that we are not meeting the needs of all participants as well as we would have hoped.  We will certainly try our best in the remaining classes.
Like the rest of the world, education continues to change and keeping pace with new information, techniques, and tech tools is a challenging task.  Our hope is this class has helped you grow.  If you are interested in learning more and continuing on this type of work I expect to be having our regular tech tuneup class this summer during the week of August 2nd and hope that you can join us.  The pacing of a 2 semester class is quite different than the one hour class and allows people to tackle multiple projects as well as delve into the latest state data.  More information should be coming out about that opportunity in the next week or so.
Mark and Kerry

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Poster for My Thoughts

I love my inspirational (or un-inspirational) posters.

You Can't Hide from the is already here.

Digital Disconnect

Since I'm on record as liking the EdTech plan released a few weeks ago I thought I would voice just one of the concerns I have with it.  I'm not sure the people in the ed tech section of the building are speaking with the people in the accountability and testing department.

The EdTech plan is a radical departure from the sit and get, test and punish policies that are NCLB.  However, we now have a new EdTech plan and NCLB in place.  The two simply do not relate.

I understand NCLB will be revamped or changed in at least some way but my guess is that we will still test mostly lower level factual/content area knowledge.  And because this is what teachers are accountable for why will they teach with the techniques described in the EdTech plan.  There is no enforcement of that why do if you can spend one more day getting ready for the test.  The test has become the curriculum.

Earlier this week I saw a sheet in the copy room with the lyrics to a song I can only the children will be singing as test prep since next week is the BIG week.  The song was about RSQ (restate the question).  RSQ is a test taking strategy that reminds kids to write in complete sentences by including most of the text of the original question.

RSQ=21st Century.....I don't think so.

image from

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

National Education Technology Plan

A little more than a month ago the US Dept. of Education released the National Education Technology Plan. While I have only skimmed it, I certainly liked what I've seen so far. From scanning the bloglines it appears that the experts generally agree with the contents of the plan and are really like what they are reading. However (as others have put it, including Will Richardson) saying and doing are two VERY things. The plan is just the beginning of the conversation....

I wonder when (if) our district will take a look at the plan. My guess is that until the State Dept of Ed. releases their take on the report (ie an updated state plan) our district may take a look at it. Until then I'll just be satisfied with the Wordle I made of the executive summary of the plan.

Google May Be On to Something Here..... ;)

Wow....those engineers at Google have done it again ;)

More animals translations....

My Philosophy of Education.....

We all need to be here....teachers have signed a contract and the students really have no choice.  Can we change impressions of school by the same things we need to do (ie curriculum) in a more fun way?

We need more of this.....

More fun ideas found at:


There was a time in our nation that formal schooling was a privilege or an optional activities for the children of our country.  In the late 1800s the leaders of our nation decided in order to continue growing our nation's future workforce and citizens needed to be universally educated.  I won't go on about how much of the curricular ideas drafted in the late 1800s are still in place today (not to mention our agrarian school calendar).

School is required by law...unfortunately an engaging learning environment is not.  While I think most teachers strive to make their teaching environment an engaging (or even fun) environment I'm not sure students see it that way.

Last week I did a highly unscientific thought association activity with about 100 students.  I was demonstrating and

I wanted students to do a brief collaborative writing activity.  I ask them to generate words they associate with summer and then I asked them to generate words they associate with school.

The results left me a bit sad.....

Blogging Assignment

Last week we learned how to use Google Reader to subscribe to online resources....most notably blogs that are of interest to us.  Since reading new information is only part of how we think about it we added the component of you writing about your readings via a blog.  We asked that you share some of your new weekly learning via your blog.  So to summarize what we would like you to do.

  1. Subscribe to at least 10 feeds.
  2. Subscribe to the feeds of blogs from course participants that are relevant to you.  I would love it if you subscribed to all but understand that might not be practical.
  3. Post twice per week relating to something you learned from your readings.  Ideally it would be relevant to teaching, learning, technology etc.  But I understand learning from blogs can be about more than just school.  I find some great stain removal remedies last week that I can tell you about :)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Teachers as Professionals?

In an ongoing discussion David Warlick, Will Richardson, and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach have been discussing teachers as professionals.  I thought David's description of what professional educators needs to do in today's conditions were very applicable to our class....

It’s an interesting conversation that Will has instigated, because it asks us to think hard about what a teacher is and does in this technology-rich, information-driven, and rapidly changing world. As I think about it, it seems that teaching well and appropriately to these new conditions involves:

  • Constantly researching and re-experting yourself in your subject area.
  • Continually accessing, evaluating, and appropriately applying new techniques and strategies with your learners.
  • Engage in action-research to test original and class situation-specific strategies.
  • Engaging in ongoing and constructive conversations that extend the knowledge and experience of individual educators to group knowledge.
  • Skillfully finding and developing authentic learning resources and sharing them with a greater education community.
  • Remaining aware of current events, advances in technology, and social conditions and engaging in ongoing and collaborative curriculum development that addresses and leverages change.
  • Liaising with the local community to bring the village into the classroom, and to project the classroom out into the community.
  • Engaging in professional development, including self-directed, local school authority opportunities, and larger conferences.
  • Practicing a learning lifestyle, sharing personal learning within your professional environment, modeling lifelong learning.

Staying in tune and up to date via a good set of feeds (blogs and wikis and other news sources) is critical and something we as professionals should all be doing.

Learning with Blogs and Wikis

Trouble with the below article?