project-based learning

Thanks to 20-year-old college student Chris Sardinas, West Palm Beach is one of the five finalists (along with cities in Peru, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom) for Google’s Model Your Town competition. Voting is now open and runs through May 1st, 2010 and of course we want to support our hometown, right?

You can see more about the competition in this blog posting at the Palm Beach Post site or use the link above to see all the competitors.

This is remarkable work and no matter how the competition turns out Chris is to be congratulated on his outstanding work, modeling well-known landmarks such as the Phillip’s Point building, Trump Towers, Good Samaritan hospital, and the historic Palm Beach County courthouse. Chris even stepped across Lake Worth to model The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach.

You can download the Google Earth file yourself at this link (KML format) and have a more detailed look, or view a video demonstration below.

Get your votes in today for your hometown and for the phenomenal work that Chris has done!

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.


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!!!

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.


American History


Research Skills

Effective use of technology

I followed a link the other day from Gary Stager to a video of a 5th Grade student interviewing Vice Presidential candidate Senator Joe Biden and was nearly bowled over when I recognized the name of the school where the student was from. “Hey! That student is from Palm Beach County! K.E. Cunningham/Canal Point Elementary to be exact! Pretty cool! A nationally-known writer and speaker on educational technology topics points to a video from one of our very own.

After looking into the actual link on YouTube I realized that this interview was already an Internet sensation, and the interviewer, 5th-grader Damon Williams, was already attracting widespread acclaim. With well over 300,000 (!) views on YouTube Damon was already well-known around the world.

And you know what? It’s well-deserved. Be sure to watch the whole video to get Damon’s closing words on this interview.

(The video has been moved over to our District’s dedicated video service so you can watch this even in places where YouTube is blocked.)

An excellent and thought-provoking article appeared in the New York Times this week, and the teacher who published this piece speaks eloquently about the challenges of teaching and learning in a technology-driven environment. In “Putting Technology in Its Place”, teacher- blogger Matthew Kay discusses his experiences in a one-to-one laptop school. His article makes a couple of excellent points that serve as reminders that technology in the classroom has to be about teaching and learning and not about the technology. Here are some of the tastier bits, but do read the entire article–and just as importantly–read the comments that come after the article. That’s where you see the beginnings of the collaboration that takes place on the modern Web.

“…technology provides sexy alternatives to older methods of instruction and assessment. (I once) spoke about my “podcast year” — when, as a first year teacher, I discovered the joy of digital microphones. Every piece of creative writing was recorded, an activity that ate up entire class periods. By the time I reached a unit where it actually made sense to capture student voice (speeches), the kids were ready to fight me. I too had allowed myself to be distracted.

Technology is also expensive. The kids have to buy insurance, and they constantly lose and replace parts. Schools feel the pinch, too. There is the myth about the Soviets using a pencil when we spent millions developing a pen — and I’m sure that’s how many feel about schools using technology. In hard economic times, there certainly is an argument to be made against unnecessary expenses.”

And yet, as he sums things up, Mr. Kay still finds incredible value in the role technology plays in the education of today’s students.

“As important as it is for students to expand their sense of community and learn to collaborate — it is more crucial that they learn how to sift thoughtfully through increasing amounts of information. The Internet presents a unique challenge to scholarship — many of the questions that once required extensive research can now be answered with 10-minute visits to Google. The issue now is distinguishing between rich resources and the online collection of surface facts, misinformation, and inexcusable lies that masquerade as the truth. It will be hard for our students to be thoughtful citizens without this ability to discern the useful from the irrelevant.”

Hmm. Being able to discern the useful from the irrelevant. Now there’s a 21st Century skill!

If you wold like to add a little personality to your Edline page, possibly lighten up the presentation of some of your content, or try and inject some creativity into your project based learning. I recommend checking out Go!Animate. You’ll find this web based publishing program at and it does require an email to create an account, but the service is free and FUN!! Here’s an example of something I put together in about 15 minutes, and I am still learning the interface. Your students will amaze you!!
Get Creative!!

The photo is a screenshot of the Adobe Connect session we used to bring in a team member for the meeting. Steve and Ben, from VoiceThread, are the two men in the top-left corner. I don’t know why I didn’t think to take a picture with a real camera or even my cellphone, but anyway, this is the best I could do. (Sorry, Ben and Steve… you deserve a better picture for sure!)

This week our department had the pleasure of meeting with the gentlemen who developed EdVoiceThread. They are geniuses (and extremely personable – go figure) and have absolutely thought of everything when it comes to developing a product for K-12 and higher education, that is safe, secure, reasonably priced and has the potential for huge impact on learning and global collaboration. How nice it would be to bring something so powerful and easy to our school district!

If YOU haven’t heard of Ed VoiceThread, you are missing one of the most remarkable FREE 21st Century online learning applications that you can be using today! You must check out these examples !

Anyone can create a VoiceThread by adding a piece of media ( JPEG, GIF, BMP, PNG, PPT, PPS, PDF, DOC, XLS and a variety of video types) and then allow others to make comments in any of 5 different ways – using voice (with a microphone or telephone), text, audio file, or video (with a webcam) – and share them with anyone they wish. Allowing group conversations to be collected and shared in one place, from anywhere in the world.

The beauty of VoiceThread is that it’s simple and safe! Here is one I created that I use as a demo. You’ll see a DE Streaming video segment and some video, audio and text comments. You can let it play or click on the avatars to activate the demo student comments. There are also some other comments that have been added by real teachers as I’ve used this to demonstrate this in workshops.

I’ve since learned however, that the way I’ve been recommending that teachers use it is not a best practice at all. In the recording below, you’ll hear me tell you that I set up one account and let my students create their own profiles under my account. Then they sit at a computer in my classroom and contribute to the VoiceThread. Although this would certainly work, especially in a K or 1st grade classroom with supervision, the problem would be that in an instant a student could accidentally delete the entire VoiceThread.


They also mentioned a feature that is coming soon is the ability to CLONE a VoiceThread. Once you’ve spent time creating a VoiceThread that might be complex, it would be pretty nice to be able to clone it to customize it for another use later on.

Please leave a comment about how you might use VoiceThread in your classroom or any barriers you foresee to a successful implementation. I hope you’ll also leave a voice comment on the VoiceThread here.

Thanks for your comments!