Classroom Technology


We have a few teachers covering our district blogging platform as we ramp up the scale of our service. It’s pretty exciting and our annual Technology Conference is a great place to get some new teachers started.

Of course, being a public school district we have plenty of rules and policies that have to be followed as well as solid practical advice from the time we’ve spent watching students and teachers interact with blogs.

If you’d like to see how we handle some of the common issues that come up with blogging and glean some ideas from our policies feel free to download our Acceptable Use for Classroom Blogs here.

We should all be PROUD!!!

The School District of Palm Beach County has been recognized by netTrekker for our commitment to keeping our students safe online and providing educationally sound Internet resources for our students and teachers.  Each year netTrekker recognizes the top 100 Districts based on the usage of their educational search tool, and this year WE RANKED # 7  OVERALL!!

To see where we ranked compared to some of the other districts in Florida and the nation click on the award.

ssa_logo_-_top_100_districts

As a reminder,

netTrekker is available to all students, teachers, and family members of the School District of Palm Beach County, and is available via a link on the Learning Tools website.  This is a direct link from school, and inquire at your school to learn more about access from home!

To learn more about netTrekker… check out the netTrekker Support Page, and KEEP SAFELY SEARCHING!!!

In Palm Beach County we all (mostly) know and love the great curriculum resources provided by BrainPOP, and it’s companions–BrainPOP Junior and BrainPOP en Espanol. Our usage of these services is through the roof, and our teachers report over and over again how much they and their students love BrainPOP and the engaging content that the service provides.

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Now, through a comprehenisive study conducted with our own teachers and teachers in New York City schools we can back up how we feel about BrainPOP content with a scientific study that measured the impact of BrainPOP on student learning gains. To say the results are striking would be an understatement.

Looking at the chart here you can see the differences in learning gains measured using the Stanford 10 diagnostic test. Students in the BrainPOP groups had substantially greater gains than those in the control groups where BrainPOP was not integrated into the curriculum. Reading from the Executive Summary of the BrainPOP Effectiveness Study conducted by SEG Research you learn that:

Students who were in classes that used BrainPOP showed substantial growth in Science, Language,
and Reading Comprehension and more moderate gains in Vocabulary, during the course of the
study. Students in classes using BrainPOP increased their SAT 10 Language scale-scores by 24
points, their Reading Comprehension scores by 17 points, their Science Scores by 17 points, and
their Vocabulary scores by 11 points (see Figure 1). Students received approximately 16-20 weeks
of instruction using BrainPOP, yet the amount of growth achieved is equivalent to between one and
two grade levels of growth when compared to the national sample of students
included in the
Stanford 10 norm group (Harcourt Assessment, 2002).(emphasis added)

In addition to the Executive Summary you can read the full, detailed Report on BrainPOP Effectiveness at this link.

A companion study conducted at the same time found that “the use of multimedia instruction can significantly enhance student learning if properly designed and implemented. BrainPOP uses animation, voice, characters, diagrams and more to motivate and engage learners in curricular topics. Read the full research paper – Understanding Multimedia Learning: Integrating Multimedia in the K-12 Classroom.

Our thanks to the teachers who participated in this study and to the great people at BrainPOP who gave our teachers instruction on its most effective use in the classroom. I had the pleasure of sitting in as Allisyn from BrainPOP Educator’s worked with our teachers to examine our benchmarks and demonstrate how lessons that support and enhance instruction can be found in BrainPOP’s library, and shared how she had used different kinds of content in her own classroom. The remarkable thing about the approach that the entire BrainPOP organization takes is how totally focused they are on creating authentic, fun, engaging learning experiences for kids. In a world run amuck with multi-media of all kinds, it’s often a tall order to get the attention of students and get them focused on your learning objectives. Based on this study, BrainPOP content does just that–engaging learning in the classroom in a way that leads to measurable gains.

Of course, no one, not even the folks at BrainPOP, claims that this kind of multi-media content engages every kind of learning, or is the best and only use of classroom computers. But clearly BrainPOP is far more than simply a modern-day version of the filmstrip if used as intended–as an awesome and fun (even!) curriculum add-on to get help kids get focused and excited (even!) about learning.

The use of technology Digital Communicationin the classroom to engage and motivate students is hardly a new concept. The question that both teachers and policy-makers have been asking themselves almost from the moment that the first computer landed in a classroom is a simple one: “Which kinds of programs work?”

In 1998 the Milliken Family Foundation released a study that identified 7 dimensions of effective technology integration. Even though this report was released over 10 years ago, the focus and dimensions that were identified are hardly dated. In fact, 10 years of experience in the classroom and the release of standards such as those created by ISTE for both teachers and students have validated the domains of learning that lead to effective technology integration. (You can download and read the full report here in PDF format.)

Here’s a brief recap of the identified dimensions of technology integration that can be used as a guide in designing your own programs and for examining their effectiveness:

1. Learners: Are learners using the technology in ways that deepen their understanding of the content in the academic standards and, at the same time, advance their knowledge of the world around them? Does the student use contemporary technology, communication networks, and associated learning contexts to engage in relevant, real-life applications of academic concepts?

2. Learning Environments: Is the learning environment designed to achieve high academic performance by students through the alignment of standards, research-proven learning practices, and contemporary teaching methods? Does the school culture enable teachers to individually and collectively improve the learning and teaching process through the use of technology? Is there sufficient access to technology tools, data, and the means to examine and manipulate them?

3. Professional Competency: Are educators fluent with technology and do they use technology tools to impact student achievement? Do teachers provide learning contexts that require students to take on more independent roles in their own learning?

4. System Capacity: Is the education system re-engineering itself to systematically meet emerging needs of a changing global workforce and new educational objectives? Is there a system to build human capacity through training and mentoring?

5. Community Connections: Are key community and school stakeholders committed and involved in the planning, funding, implementing, and evaluating the system’s use of technology? Is their clear articulation of roles, expectations, implementation, time lines, and accountability?

6. Technology Capacity: Are there adequate technology, networks, electronic resources and support to meet the goals of the system? Is capacity evenly distributed? Do all students and teachers have equal opportunities?

7. Accountability: Is there agreement on what success with the successful use of technology looks like? Are there measures in place to track progress, report results, and change as needed?

While there may be individual points to argue in this study, there is much to be gained by asking these questions. As you examine your own priorities and the priorities of your school, how would you answer? What changes do you feel need to be made in the approach you are taking with technology integration? And where do you feel changes are needed?

As you begin the 2009-2010 school year it’s good to keep the significant role that teachers play in the lives of our students in proper perspective. Here are a few words from some famous individuals with their thoughts on teachers. (Quotes courtesy of The Quote Garden):

I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.  ~Lily Tomlin as “Edith Ann”

The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called “truth.”  ~Dan Rather

In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work.  It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.  ~Jacques Barzun

Modern cynics and skeptics… see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing.  ~John F. Kennedy

Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater.  ~Gail Godwin

A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron.  ~Horace Mann

A teacher’s purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image.  ~Author Unknown

What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.  ~Karl Menninger

Teaching should be full of ideas instead of stuffed with facts.  ~Author Unknown

One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings.  The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.  ~Carl Jung

The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.  ~Kahlil Gibran

The task of the excellent teacher is to stimulate “apparently ordinary” people to unusual effort.  The tough problem is not in identifying winners:  it is in making winners out of ordinary people.  ~K. Patricia Cross

When you teach your son, you teach your son’s son.  ~The Talmud

The best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book.  ~Author Unknown

Often, when I am reading a good book, I stop and thank my teacher.  That is, I used to, until she got an unlisted number.  ~Author Unknown

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.  ~John Cotton Dana

Here are a few more from Teacher Appreciation

“We think of the effective teachers we have had over the years with a sense of recognition, but those who have touched our humanity we remember with a deep sense of gratitude.”
Anonymous student

“If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job. ”
Donald D. Quinn

“None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots. ”
Thurgood Marshall

“Education…beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of conditions of men –the balance wheel of the social machinery…It does better than to disarm the poor of their hostility toward the rich; it prevents being poor.”
Horace Mann

“Public education rests precariously on the skill and virtue of the people at the bottom of the institutional pyramid.”
Tracy Kidder
“The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life.”
Plato

“The very spring and root of honesty and virtue lie in good education.”
Plutarch

“I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well”
Alexander the Great

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
Henry Adams

Have a GREAT school year! Your students are counting on you!

A cross-state collaborative event occurred between one of our teachers here at Waters Edge ES (Mr. Fisher) and a teacher in Chicago (Mrs. Broos) to celebrate Lincoln’s 200th birthday.

5th grade students completed a KWL on VoiceThread and were then grouped in 2’s from partnering classes to conduct research together. They collaborated by creating their own VoiceThreads, adding their documents and leaving each other comments. Classes communicated using Adobe Connect and the links were shared on Edline. In addition, this has all been uploaded to MediaShare (search “lincoln”) for the ultimate sharing experience for all teachers to be able to replicate. As if that isn’t enough, Mrs. Weinroth  and Emilie from WOWL and one of the anchors from PalmBreezeCAFE were on the scene to capture it all!

On this final day (shown in the video) the Mrs. Broos’ class in Chicago had an assembly and put on a show while the class here watched and participated.

I hope you will take just a few minutes to watch the video and check out their VoiceThread.

Skills:

American History

Government

Research Skills

Effective use of technology

I had the chance to speak with Allisyn Levy who runs the BrainPOP Educators blog at a conference recently, and they’ve got some great things going on over there! We’ve always been impressed with the terrific content that we receive from BrainPOP and BrainPOP Junior here in our school district, and the company is now reaching out to educators through an online community.

If you don’t know about this community of BrainPOP-loving teachers then you’re missing out on some great ideas for integrating BrainPOP into your classroom. It’s definintely worth your time to sign up (free of course) and join in. Whether you’re using BrainPOP, BrainPOP Junior, or BrainPOP en Espanol–which we make available at school and at home in our school district–you’ll find that this is another example of how your personal learning community can be expanded by becoming involved in discussions with like-minded educators.

One of the added benefits of joining BrainPOP Educators is it gives you the ability to embed the featured movie of the month in your own web site. That’s right! All you need to do is copy and paste the code provided to you after you request the snippet from BrainPOP and away you go. Try it! It’s easy! Palm Beach County teachers can even do this in their Edline sites, providing their students and parents with a fun lesson from BrainPOP that changes frequently.

So, without further ado, here’s what you’ll see when you get your own BrainPOP code. I’m not even sure what movie will appear when you read this, but you can be certain that the content will be like the rest of the material we get from BrainPOP–fun, fast-paced, vocabulary-rich, and chock full of add-on activities that you can do with your students!




Spelling City

Here’s a great way for elementary teachers or parents to help your students practice for those weekly spelling tests that we all know and love!  Also, you can search for a huge number of provided lists that cover a large range of age appropriateness, and content specific subjects.

As a teacher or parent, you can very easily create a “weekly spelling list” that can be accessed at home with a username and password of your choice. You have the choice of making your list public and searchable, or keep it private so only your students will know how to find it.  No email or identification is required of the student, and when they log in, they will be presented with several very interactive ways to learn their words. They can hear their words, take practice tests or play one of several games.
Jump in and give it a try!  I am using it with my children and they really seem to enjoy it.  I am sure you’ll find the same results with your students.  Let us know how it goes, and if you’ve shared any great new lists!

The election season is in full swing and there’s little doubt that teachers all over the country are using the teachable moments that this year brings to add all sorts of engaging content into their lessons. After all, one of the primary tasks of public education is the preparation of good citizens, so we certainly can’t pass up an opportunity like this now can we?

There are all sorts of great lesson plans floating around on the Web, but I thought I’d highlight two of my favorite sources this time around.

First, the good folks at Education World have quite a few great offerings. For a complete listing of all their lesson plans visit The Election: Classroom Activities for lesson plans, webquests, and links to sites where students can find information about the election coming up in little over a month.

Also not to be missed are all the election and government resources compiled by PBS Teacher’s Source at their Access, Analyze, Act site where you’ll find even more lessons, activities, and links. Be sure to visit the Resources page where you’ll find links to great activities like:

National Mock Election

Get My Vote from NPR

American Experience: The Presidents

So let’s get out there, but be careful! There’s a lot at stake this time around and an educated electorate is one of the keys to our democracy. Are you doing your part to help your students understand what the issues are and which candidates really represent them?

I often come across a link that I will share with a particular department, or group of teachers. I think this would be an example of one that may be of interest to many elementary, and select secondary teachers.
Sheppard Logo
http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/ is a site that has many fun and free educational games that cover many different subjects. This site was highlighted by CNN as a “Fun Site of the Week”, and I can see why.

If you take a few minutes to explore this fabulous resource, you will find everything from Astronomy to Zoology, from basic math operations to pre-algebra, from history to health, and even SAT vocabulary builders.

Whether you’d like to use this during your scheduled lab or computer time (although there are a few blocked advertisement banners, yes this site is currently available inside our firewall!) or by providing links to specific games as supplemental resources on your Edline pages, I can’t think of anyone I know who would not see true value in providing these fun and effective options for their students!

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