Monday, December 14, 2009

Research Tools: Be the Spider

Cross posted at:

Be the spider, not the bee
When looking for food, the bee travels from flower to flower to flower. This is the traditional way that we think about researching. We go to a search engine and jump from web page to web page to web page. This is tiring and inefficient. Instead, we need to be like the spider.

The spider spins a web and waits for his food to come to him. He doesn't waste time. He has found a better way to make what he wants come to him. So, how can we do that as researchers?

BEE A Better Searcher: Google Smarter, Not Harder

Using Better Search Terms and Options
  • It's all about your search terms. Before ever putting a word into the Google search box, first spend some time coming up with 5 - 10 specific search terms. In fact, refer to these pages to help you refine your search terms.

  • Use quotation marks to limit results. Putting quotation marks around your search terms tells Google to return results that include only that exact phrase. This is especially important to use when you are looking for research on uniquely worded or specific terms. For example, there are over 16 million results for India's water supply but only 186,000 results for "India's water supply," and the results that are returned when using the quotations are more relevant.

  • Search within a specific website (site:) Google allows you to specify that your search results must come from a given website. For example, by typing India Google will return pages about India from the New York Times website. You can broaden this, too. If you type India, you will get results from a .gov domain.

  • Use the minus to limit what your search returns. When you put a minus before a word in the search box, Google will not return sites that include that term. For example, by doing a search like salsa -dancing (notice there is no space between the minus and dancing), the minus will remove "dancing" from the search results you get back.

  • Define: Need a quick definition? Type define: word and viola! An instant definition!

  • Use OR to refine your search. Google's default behavior is to consider all the words in a search. In fact, you don't need to use and because this is Google's default. If you want to specifically allow either one of several words, you can use the OR operator (note that you have to type 'OR' in ALL CAPS). For example, Philadelphia Phillies 2008 OR 2009 will give you results about either one of these years, whereas Philadelphia Phillies 2008 2009 (without the OR) will show pages that include both years on the same page.

  • Use the tilde to find synonymous search terms. Adding the tilde (~) before a search term will help broaden your search because the tilde tells Google to return not only the search term you specified, but also terms that Google thinks are synonymous with your term.

  • Use an asterisk to find a quick answer. Sometimes the best way to ask a question is to get Google to fill in the blank by adding an asterisk (*) at the part of the sentence or question that you want finished into the Google search box. How many MPH can the world's fastest man run? Ask Google by typing the world's fast man can run * MPH.


GOOGLE SEARCH OPTIONS: Search smarter using timeline searches, scholar searches, and book searches

  • Google Books: Search full texts of books (hint: use the search box to the left of the book's pages)

  • Google Scholar: Search scholarly online journals, presentations, and texts

  • Google News: Search worldwide news sources

Tips and Tricks for Searching Sources Faster
  • Control + F opens a find box at the bottom of the page to make searching within a document for specific information even easier. This works on any web page.

  • Search a specific site by using site:

  • Kite Runner will return pages on my site that mention Kite Runner

  • India water shortage will search educational sites for mention of India's water shortage issues

  • filetype:.pdf (or .doc or .ppt, etc.) will help you find specific file types (this can also be done from the advanced search

How Do I Know I Have Reliable Source?
1) Always check your work: validate the information by looking at multiple sources
2) Credibility =trustworthiness + expertise Strategies to determine trustworthiness and expertise:
  • Check the "About" section - look at who is publishing the site, the author's credentials, sponsoring organization, citations to other works. Use this to assess the bias.

  • The URL - is the web site from an organization you've hear of?

  • Type of page - is it someone's personal page?

  • Type of domain - .edu sites are generally more believable than some others

  • Where - is the site hosted in another country?

  • Is there a date and an author?

  • Do others cite this source? Use link: to see what links to a website
Information from this presentation

Make the WEB Work Harder:
Google Alerts
  • Create Alerts to send relevant news resources to your email inbox. BE THE SPIDER!

Access Your WEB of Research Anywhere:
Online Bookmarking

Professional Development Links

  • Teach Digital: Curriculum by Wes Fryer / ingredients
    Good teaching is similar in many ways to good cooking. Recipes are helpful, but master cooks often modify those to meet different needs and situations. The same is true for teachers. If we extend this analogy of cooking to teaching and learning in a web 2.0 world, what are the best "ingredients" to use as we help both teachers and students learn to be more effective, safe, and powerful communicators in our flat world? As we blend learning by providing digital opportunities to interact with content and individuals along with face-to-face, synchronous interaction, we can increase student engagement as well as student achievement.
  • Authentic Assessment Toolbox Home Page
    The Authentic Assessment Toolbox is a how-to text on creating authentic tasks, rubrics and standards for measuring and improving student learning.
  • principals - legal
    CIPA, COPPA, and FERPA Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) * FCC Summary * Judicial Interpretation of CIPA's Unblocking Provision: According to the Supreme Court, a library that is required to filter can either disable the filter or unblock a site in response to an adult patron request to do so. Justice Rehnquist stated "[a]ssuming that such erroneous blocking presents constitutional difficulties, any such concerns are dispelled by the ease with which patrons may have the filtering software disabled. When a patron encounters a blocked site, he need only ask a librarian to unblock it or (at least in the case of adults) disable the filter." FCC Order 03-188 subsequently instructed libraries complying with CIPA to implement a procedure for unblocking the filter upon request by an adult.
  • educon22 - home
    What is EduCon 2.2? EduCon 2.2 is both a conversation and a conference. And it is not a technology conference. It is an education conference. It is, hopefully, an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas -- from the very practical to the big dreams.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Google Goodies: Links

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Even More Kite Runner Links

  • Film Education | Resources | The Kite Runner | Background
    'The Kite Runner' has many different layers, these include political policy and tribal and religious dimensions. To help to under these elements, Film Education spoke with Adbul-Rehman Malik Contributing Editor from Q News to help us understand the context behind the story. Q News is Britain's leading Muslim magazine, providing outside-the-box analysis of current affairs, culture, ideas and spirituality.
  • Kite Runner Lesson Plan
    Links in the schedule connect to handouts and projects related to reading Kite Runner
  • Following Amir A trip to Afghanistan in which life imitates art
    Amir will be the first to tell you that he is neither the noblest nor the bravest of men. But three years ago, he did something both noble and brave: He went back to Afghanistan, then ruled by the Taliban, to settle an old score. He went back after a 20-year absence to atone for a sin he had committed as a boy. He went back to rescue a child he had never met, and to rescue himself from damnation. The journey almost cost him his life. The thing is, I was the one who sent him. It was easy. After all, I created Amir; he is the protagonist of my novel, "The Kite Runner."
  • Curriki - TheKiteRunnerUnit
    This table of contents provides an overview to the materials contained in this novel unit. The table is broken down into the Curriki folders found in this collection so all teachers can easily find all the resources available in this novel unit.
  • Spence's Stuff / The Kite Runner
    Lesson plan for The Kite Runner
  • kiterunnerwebquest - The Kite Runner Webquest
    Today starts the adventure of immersing yourself into Afghan life. As a youth, you spent many hours making, flying, and running kites. You knew that someday you would help your own kids enjoy these same activities, until 1994 when the Taliban stepped in and halted all kite flying. It's an important part of your culture; the significance of kite flying is an analogy to Afghanistan's history; you cannot let this interference continue.
  • CCHSEnglishII - The Kite Runner
    Pre, during, and post reading activities for The Kite Runner.
  • The Kite Runner - English Companion
    So many resources are mentioned in this thread found on the English Companion's Ning. Check it out!
  • Multicultural Literature - The Kite Runner
    Synopsis / Description: The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, is a story about the past, and rectifying the mistakes of the past. The protagonist, Amir, grows up in Kabul, Afghanistan, before the Russian invasion of the land. As children, Amir and Hassan play with slingshots and kites, tell stories, make errands to the market. They are not unlike two boys playing in any part of the world. Students will hopefully notice that human nature is the same across borders of time and place. However, they should also notice and appreciate the differences in the customs, beliefs, and habits of Afghanis. In our current political situation, it's extremely important for students to humanize the people of Afghanistan, and see that people are all people; we all make mistakes, and we are not so different after all.
  • Literature from the Modern Middle East: Making a Living Connection
    While our country is deeply involved in the Middle East, most Americans, including our students, lack knowledge about the region. Yet from Afghanistan to Palestine, from Morocco to Iraq, there is a vibrant and exciting literature by living authors that can bring the diverse experiences and perspectives of this vital part of the world to our classes.
  • Teach Middle Eastern Literature
    Information, resources and suggestions for teaching literature and film from and about the modern Middle East in middle school, high school, and college. Supporting the 2009 NCTE presentation: "Who is a Terrorist? Teaching Contemporary Literature from the Middle East"
  • Khaled Hosseini Interview -- Academy of Achievement
    Khaled Hosseini Interview Afghanistan's Tumultuous History July 3, 2008 Khaled Hosseini Interview
  • explore - cultural and educational films and photos
    explore is a multimedia organization that documents leaders around the world who have devoted their lives to extraordinary causes. Both educational and inspirational, explore creates a portal into the soul of humanity by championing the selfless acts of others. explore's growing library consists of more than 250 original films and 30,000 photographs from around the world. We showcase our work at film festivals, on over 100 public broadcast and cable channels, and on numerous online destinations including, Snag Films, Hulu and TakePart.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Plagiarism Detection Links

  • | Free Online Plagiarism Detection System, Plagiarism checker
    100% plagiarism detection in any written content using novelty multi-layered technology. Convenient and fast search, which will save you a lot of time, instead of Googling every sentence. User-friendly plagiarism checker interface, for you to experience 100% productivity. Detailed plagiarism results display, which points out the most problematic fragments of your text. 100% guarantee of total confidentiality and safety. Detection without saving your text to any databases, to avoid any problems with further plagiarism check.
  • plagium (beta)::: plagiarism tracker & checker ::: home
  • DOC Cop = Accurate + Fast + Free + Simple + Plagiarism Detection
    What is DOC Cop? DOC Cop is a plagiarism, cryptomnesia and collusion detection tool that creates reports displaying the correlation and matches between documents or a document and the web. DOC Cop does not take copyright or ownership of your material. It does not retain your material beyond the time it takes to generate your report. DOC Cop gathers the evidence, and provides the information required for you to judge whether plagiarism, cryptomnesia or collusion has occurred.
  • Turnitin: Home: Welcome to Turnitin
    Turnitin Originality Checking & Plagiarism Prevention is the #1 web-based solution that lets educators and their students check written work for improper citation or misappropriated content.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Having just returned from the Google Teacher Academy in Washington, D.C., I have so much to write about! But before I get to all that I learned with my stellar cohort of 52 amazing educators, I thought I would pass along a wonderful resource:

The Edublog Awards

If you are looking to build your professional network, scroll down and check out the linked nominees for best teacher blogs. And, if you are interested in using blogs with students, these examples cannot be missed. And perhaps the most helpful to your professional and personal development - the list of gurus.

And while you are there, don't forget to vote!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Background Resources for The Kite Runner

I'm in the process of putting together my unit plan and curriculum resources for The Kite Runner. My tenth grade students seem to be genuinely excited about reading this novel; almost as excited as I am to teach it. As so many teachers are now incorporating this book into their curriculums, I thought I would share my developing list of resources. Teachers, be sure to check out my growing list of linked lesson plans near the end of this post.

Introducing The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini:
  • Listen to this interview with the author to learn more about his background and his first book The Kite Runner.

  • And start your exploration by going right to the source - Khaled Hosseini's website!

Background on the Novel:

Learn about Afghanistan
  • This National Geographic site is a great place to learn more about the history, geography, and politics of Afghanistan.

  • The CIA World Factbook is another great resource.

  • Learn about the different ethnic groups living in Aghanistan
    • A map of the distribution of the different groups living in Afghanistan

    • The Pashtuns make up the majority and are most often Sunni Muslims

    • The Hazaras make up about one-fifth of Afghanistan's population and are mainly Shiite Muslims

    • Learn about the various groups in Afghanistan through this interactive map

What is Kite Fighting?

The Women of Kabul
  • A very interesting project sponsored by the Washington Post on the roles and history of women in Afghanistan. This site is loaded with images, video documentary, and a great interviews.

  • You've probably seen this picture before. It is one of National Geographic's most famous images. But who is this Afghani girl? Where is she now? What does she look like today? See for yourself!

Video Background
  • Enjoy this playlist of videos featuring interviews of the author, presentations on the history of Afghanistan, and more about the Kite Runner.

For Students: Extra Credit Opportunity
  • Complete an independent project on the Middle East to earn up to 10 points of extra credit. Get the details HERE.

Resources for Teachers
  • Teachers will find a bookmarked list of lesson plans and curriculum materials for teaching this novel HERE.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Teaching and Parenting

Before becoming a parent, I naively thought that my experiences as a teacher would help me as a mother. Come to find out, it was really the other way around. Being a parent has taught me to be a better teacher. Parenting has little to do with standing in front of your child, dictating instructions. Instead, it’s about letting moments unfold, learning from them, and trying to help your child explore and learn from those moments as well. Parenting is not about filling your child’s head with all your wisdom. It is about letting your child find his own wisdom and having the patience to let him come to that knowledge through a series of sometimes faltering steps. Parents guide their children. Parents coach their children. Parents are there to structure the environment, to provide models. As parents we don’t assign our students worksheets on how to behave. In the case of my son, just learning to walk, I don’t design activities for him to complete lock-step (forgive the pun) by a particular deadline. I provide him with opportunities to explore. I encourage him to try and try again. And I hope that I encourage his excitement about trying new things.

Isn’t this what good teaching also involves? What I’ve discovered is that the more I reflect on who I want to be as a parent, I am also called to revisit who I want to be as a teacher. Is it really important at the end the day, at the end of the year, at the end of high school for students to know what year Kahled Hosseini wrote The Kite Runner? Will the daily lives of my students be enriched for knowing that in chapter 16 there is a metaphor on page 211? Is it really important if students remember verbatim the definition of verisimilitude? Or, instead, is it better that my students know how to identify a theme, analyze it, and connect it to their experience of humanity? Isn’t it more important that students are able to critically analyze texts for their bias? And if this is true, if teaching should be about helping our students develop applicable skills related to our content area, why do I continue to feel it is necessary to give what essentially amounts to reading tests at the end of units?

I don’t think I’m alone here. I’m in the process of putting together my unit teaching Middle Eastern literature, centered around the reading of The Kite Runner. And in the process of gathering materials, I of course stumbled across the various pre-packaged units, many of which rely on multiple vocabulary and reading quizzes. However, even when searching various teacher prepared lessons on sites like TeachersPayTeachers, what I discovered were rafts of multiple choice quizzes bogged down with plot questions. What does a test of plot-based questions really test? That students read a text. Really, is that all we expect? I hope the message I send my students is not that we read simply for the sake of finishing a book. Instead, we read to connect to others, to empathize with the lives of others, to learn more about ourselves. Shouldn’t our unit assessments reflect that learning?

What I’ve come to realize as a parent is that the learning that sticks with a person is the learning that cannot be measured (usually) by a multiple choice test. As I mentioned in an earlier post, good teaching involves setting the stage for learning. What this means for me is that I need to spend less time standing in front of the class, and more time thinking about the skills and themes that I want my students to understand by the close of the unit. Teaching becomes more about what I hope my students are able to understand and do by the close of a lesson, and less about what they can recall for a test. That is not to say that all discrete knowledge should be dismissed. Instead, it means that I need to find more meaningful ways of helping student understand how to use and apply that knowledge rather than simply recall it. Teaching is about helping students become more than just book learners. It is guiding them to be life learners.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Taking a Cue from Snidely Whiplash, "Curses! Foiled Again!"

The best laid plans of a tech-happy teacher, foiled by incompatibility issues. Turns out my new laptop, decked out with Windows 7, is not compatible with the wireless available at the NCTE conference. According to Amy Sass, the incredibly patient, kind, and helpful tech support person hanging out in the Tech Zone, this seems to be a common problem with Windows 7. Which means that my plans to live stream today's sessions (or even Twitter about them) were foiled.

But have no fear! I'm going old school at tomorrow's sessions. I'll bring my 25 pound laptop (only slight hyperbole there) and a detachable webcam and see if Windows 98 might do a better job. My guess is, it will.

Needless to say, my opinion of Windows 7 has sunk to about the same level as my opinion of standardized tests.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Watch This Space! Live Streaming from NCTE

Live Videos by Ustream

I'm new to UStream, a live streaming video site. I just started using it in September to broadcast and record my 10th grade English classes. I can already hear it. The audible gasp I inevitable get whenever someone hears me say that I live broadcast my high school classes. However, UStream is unique in that you can password protect your "channels." My classroom site is set up so that only the selected parents, students, and teachers that I've shared the password with can view our site. And I have to say, it has been an amazing tool! Whenever a student is absent, I send them to our site to watch the class they missed. Parents have joined us virtually to watch student speeches and presentations, and using the chat function in UStream, parents have given some wonderfully supportive feedback to my students.

That is not to say that every day I have parents and students watching our class live. In fact, most days, no one watches. But even if no one watched, it would still be an amazing resource for me as a teacher. I have a recording of how I teach. I can see how much I move about the room, where my blind spots are, who I talk to and who I need to include more. It has helped me grow as a teacher. I can look back and reflect on how a discussion evolved, what worked, and what didn't. And I have this tool because I saw someone use it at another conference.

So, now I'm sharing the tool with you! For the next few days I'll be participating in the annual conference for the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE). Whenever possible, I'll live stream out the sessions so those who are not able to attend this year can still join the conversations and collaborations that come out of the NCTE conference. Additionally, I'll be blogging my reflections and notes on the various sessions. I hope that this is will not just be a record of what I see at NCTE, but a way to continue the conversations that merely begin there.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Motivate Me?

I finished my application and video for the upcoming Google Teacher Academy. Just in time, too. It was due by midnight last night. I submitted mine at 11:30 pm. Those that know me, know that this if fairly typical. I realized a long time ago that my procrastination acts as a bit of a defense mechanism. If I fail, I have a built in excuse - I should have failed. I didn't give myself enough time. It takes the pressure off. If I succeed, well, it is a happy bit of coincidence. However, my husband's voice has been ringing in my head recently, asking me to spend some time reflecting on this bad habit. Frustrated with my procrastination, he asked me to imagine what I could accomplish if I gave myself and my endeavors the time they deserve. But once again, I found myself leaving my work to nearly the last minute. Perhaps, I'm just not motivated.

Coincidentally, motivation was the theme of the video I put together for my Google application. Applicants were asked to put together a one minute video on either Innovation and Teaching or on Learning and Motivation. I decided to focus on motivation.

Surprisingly enough, I did start my application long before last night. A few weeks ago, I put together a survey and asked my students to think about what motivated them to learn. I shared a link to that survey with high school students around the world via my Twitter PLN. As of today, I've heard from 66 students from Pennsylvania, Oregon, and China. I also went searching through my bookcases. What had others written about motivation? And between the students' responses and what others have written, he here's what I discovered:

I hate the word motivation.

When educators use this word, it is usually in the form of - "What can we do to motivate our students?" Translation: "What can we do to force our students to do what we want them to do?" Motivation is the wrong word. Reading through the plethora of educational philosophy texts on motivation and countless education blogs, I feel that what most educators are concerned with is coercion. Not motivation. And it is no wonder. With the public and the government knocking down the doors of our schools, clamoring on about standards and grades and outcomes, teachers are in a mad dash to force our students into compliance. In fact, in Pennsylvania that seems to be the language we are using to talk about how schools have performed on state mandated exams - are schools in compliance? When did learning become about compliance?

So I found myself flipping back through the works of writers like Alfie Kohn, Paulo Freire, and John Dewey last night. And I am reminded that real learning is often times undermined by the attempt to quantify it. Alfie Kohn writes in Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes,
"We want students to become rigorous thinkers, accomplished readers and writers and problem solvers who can make connections and distinctions between ideas. But the most reliable guide to a process that is promoting these things is not grades or test scores: it is the student's level of interest" (146).
In fact, we know this about even our tiniest learners. The best predictor for intelligence in toddlers is not how well or how fast they learn particular actions or achieve set milestones. Instead, one of the predictors for intelligence is a child's curiosity and interest in exploring his environment. An intelligent child is the interested child. And children want to learn. Kohn goes on to write,
"...children do not need to be motivated. From the beginning they are hungry to make sense of their world. Given an environment in which they don't feel controlled and in which they are encouraged to think about what they are doing (rather than how well they are doing it), students of any age will generally exhibit an abundance of motivation and a healthy appetite for challenge" (198-9).
I know this to be true. I see it daily in my son.

He eats up the world. Gathers it in his tiny hands, rolls it over, considers it carefully. I do not have to "motivate" him to try new things, to learn. He is curious, ready to experience the world on his own. And when I try to force him to practice this or that milestone, let's try walking today, he resists. But he will pull himself up on anything and everything, cruise along any piece of furniture that is just over two foot tall. I do not grade his progress. I do not "motivate" his learning with some intangible reward. Instead, I set him in the middle of the floor with books and shiny objects, with new toys and old, and let him discover what something is, how it works, and how he can manipulate it. I facilitate his learning by creating a learning environment. Which is what as a teacher, I should be doing in my classroom.

Kohn writes,
"The job of educators is neither to make students motivated nor to sit passively; it is to set up the conditions that make learning possible. The not to wait 'until an individual is interest...[but to offer] a stimulating environment that can be perceived by students as [presenting] vivid and valued options which can lead to successful learning and performance'" (199).

I am a facilitator of learning, not a dictator of knowledge. I do not motivate learning. I facilitate it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What Motivates Learning?

I'm motivated to learn more about motivation.

What motivates students to learn, to engage in our content, to apply their knowledge in unique and meaningful ways? Are you a high school student? Help me learn more about what motivates learning. I'm asking high school students to take a moment to complete this quick survey. You'll be able to see a summary of the results after you submit your completed survey. I'll then compile the results, share them here in a blog post, and use them to inform how I teach. And hopefully, as other educators access this site, it will start a conversation about how, what, and why we teach what we teach.

CLICK HERE for the survey.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Today's Interesting Links

  • Mapping the Holocaust
    The Museum is using Google Earth to map key Holocaust sites with historic content from its collections, powerfully illustrating the enormous scope and impact of the Holocaust.
  • educationalwikis - Articles and Resources
    All sorts of wonderful information on using wikis in the classroom
  • Public Domain Photos and Wallpapers
    This is a place for free public domain photos and desktop wallpapers. Large collection of High Resolution photos and wallpapers, Thousands of high quality public domain pictures, easy to search.
  • 100 Best Blogs for Those Who Want to Change the World | Best Universities
    The world is full of students and visionaries and people who want to make a difference in the world, and many of those people share their knowledge online through their blogs. Whether you want to change the world through environment, humanitarianism, business, or any other way, there's a blog out there that can offer you guidance and inspiration. Read on, and you'll find 100 blogs that can help you change the world.
  • Tools for Reading, Writing, & Thinking
    These tools should be used to help students engage in rigorous thinking, organize complex ideas, and scaffold their interactions with texts.
  • Google Wave Use Cases
    Wave in Class After searching some public 'waves,' we came across an educational wave. Entitled 'Wave in Class,' this wave was started by Loren Baum (a self-described "collaborative learning enthusiast" and graduate student at Ben Gurion University) and Sam Boland (a Politics student and "Tech Enthusiast" at Occidental College, Los Angeles). The wave was started to explore concepts like "Collaborative Note Taking" and "Wave as a Debate Host." Nearly 100 people are included in the wave, ranging from teachers to PhD students to IT professionals to high school students.
  • How to Address Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom | Edutopia
    Multiple-intelligences theory can provide a flexible approach to good teaching, say teachers and administrators at the Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, in Gainesville, Georgia. Tailoring classroom activities to individual students' needs, interests, and strengths makes sense -- and, at this school, it has proved extremely effective. Whether you're interested in starting an MI-themed school or incorporating some of the MI philosophy into classroom activities, here are a few tips and resources that work at Enota.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Links for Writing Teachers

K12 students and teachers are creating unprecedented opportunities for inquiry-based learning by expanding the geographic boundaries of their classrooms - - virtually and cost effectively. K12 schools on the MAGPI network participate in interactive video exchanges in real-time - - with their students' peers, content providers or experts from anywhere in the world. They have access to more than 100 MAGPI-produced interactive video programs each year. Students and teachers take advantage of multimedia files and learning objects through digital library repositories, create their own virtual words and use remote scientific instruments - - all without leaving their classrooms.

The Fischbowl: This I Believe Goes Global - We Want You!
For the past three years, I have had my classes write their versions of National Public Radio's "This I Believe" segment. I was introduced to this idea by a colleague and have been always impressed by what my students hold as their personal values and beliefs. Writing these essays has allowed for them to do something they don't get to do all that often at school - express their heartfelt beliefs. After writing the essays the first year, we submitted them to NPR, but we also decided to podcast them ourselves – no need to wait to see if NPR might choose to broadcast them. The writing was good at expressing their values, but once their voice was added to their written expression, WOW, it simply transformed that personal essay. Instead of the words simply being words, the words conveyed deeply held emotions. Now, this is the standard.

ReadWriteThink: Lesson Plan: Weekly Writer's Blogs: Building a ...
In this digital rethinking of the traditional weekly writer's logs, students analyze example writer's blog entries then begin the habit of writing their own weekly entries, which focus on the writing that they have done over the past seven days. These reflective assignments ask students to think about their progress on writing activities and to project how they will continue their work in the future.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Personal and Professional Development Links

  • A Teacher's Guide To Web 2.0 at School
    great tool for introducing web 2.0 tools to teachers
  • Where do you find the time? Shirky's Answer " Moving at the Speed of ...
    This past Thursday night, I was delighted to be a guest on the Seedlings' show on EdTechTalk, hosted by Alice Barr, Bob Sprankle, and Cheryl Oakes. My daughter, Sarah, joined us for the conversation and chimed in with both her ideas and questions for other participants. Near the end of the show, Bob asked me a question I've been asked a few times in the past: How do you find all the time to publish what you share? I fumbled around for an answer, and ended up saying something about MarsEdit (my favorite offline blogging software) and the value of creating and sharing for my own learning, long term memory, and digital archive of ideas (this blog.) I don't think that was a very good answer. A better answer, and much shorter one, would have been similar to the message of Clay Shirky at the Web 2.0 Expo in April 2008. The answer I SHOULD have given to Bob was this: I don't watch much television.
  • Blooms Taxonomy Tutorial FLASH - CCCS Faculty Wiki
    The tutorials were created as interactive adaptations of the three Tutorial References listed on this page. If you cannot view/use the tutorials, please consult the references instead- Churches (2008) is especially useful as it includes in-depth information about the revised taxonomy and numerous activity examples and rubrics for evaluation of those activities. This page focuses exclusively on the cognitive domain of learning, but there are taxonomies for the affective and psychomotor domains. To learn more about these, see the Clark (2007) resource listed in the Tutorial References section of this page. There are also Other Resources to explore.
  • Google For Educators
    The Google Teacher Academy is a FREE professional development experience designed to help K-12 educators get the most from innovative technologies. Each Academy is an intensive, one-day event where participants get hands-on experience with Google's free products and other technologies, learn about innovative instructional strategies, receive resources to share with colleagues, and immerse themselves in an innovative corporate environment. Upon completion, Academy participants become Google Certified Teachers who share what they learn with other K-12 educators in their local region.
  • What is Web 3.0? Semantic Web & other Web 3.0 Concepts Explained in Plain English
    Web 1.0 – That Geocities & Hotmail era was all about read-only content and static HTML websites. People preferred navigating the web through link directories of Yahoo! and dmoz. Web 2.0 – This is about user-generated content and the read-write web. People are consuming as well as contributing information through blogs or sites like Flickr, YouTube, Digg, etc. The line dividing a consumer and content publisher is increasingly getting blurred in the Web 2.0 era. Web 3.0 – This will be about semantic web (or the meaning of data), personalization (e.g. iGoogle), intelligent search and behavioral advertising among other things. If that sounds confusing, check out some of these excellent presentations that help you understand Web 3.0 in simple English. Each takes a different approach to explain Web 3.0 and the last presentation uses an example of a "postage stamp" to explain the "semantic web".

Monday, October 12, 2009

Today's Interesting Links

  • Promoting Literacy Skills and a Love of Reading | Literacy Connections
    Literacy Connections provides a wealth of information on reading, teaching and tutoring techniques, ESL literacy, and adult literacy. We recommend resources that are useful for teachers, volunteers, and directors of literacy programs. Topics include the language experience approach, phonics, word study, and the best in children's literature.
  • Son of Citation Machine
    Citation machine is designed to help student and professional researchers to properly credit the sources used. Its primary goal is to make it so easy for student researchers to cite their information sources, that there is virtually no reason not to -- because... SOMEDAY THE INFORMATION THAT SOMEONE ELSE WANTS TO USE -- WILL BE YOURS!
  • Silva Rhetoricae: The Forest of Rhetoric
    This online rhetoric, provided by Dr. Gideon Burton of Brigham Young University, is a guide to the terms of classical and renaissance rhetoric. Sometimes it is difficult to see the forest (the big picture) of rhetoric because of the trees (the hundreds of Greek and Latin terms naming figures of speech, etc.) within rhetoric. This site is intended to help beginners, as well as experts, make sense of rhetoric, both on the small scale (definitions and examples of specific terms) and on the large scale (the purposes of rhetoric, the patterns into which it has fallen historically as it has been taught and practiced for 2000+ years).
  • Concept to Classroom: Course Menu
    Welcome to Concept to Classroom! We've got a new look with the same great workshops. The site features a series of FREE, self-paced workshops covering a wide variety of hot topics in education. Some of the workshops are based in theory, some are based in methodology - but all of the workshops include plenty of tips and strategies for making classrooms work. Access the workshops in the menu below or visit the About the Series section to learn how you can apply these workshops toward professional development credit.
  • 100 Twitter Feeds To Make You a Better Teacher - Online Courses
    New technology is not only unavioidable, it's a crucial part of education today. That's why so many teachers are Tweeting, and many others are following close behind. After you set up your account at, be sure to check out some of these great education feeds. Who knows? You might even learn a thing or two.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Links to Summer Reading Book Reviews and More

  • Assessment Cyberguide for Learning Goals and Outcomes
    Although Bloom's Taxonomy proved useful to teachers and students alike, recent decades gave rise to numerous criticisms, implying that the model was out of date. These criticisms included concerns with setting applicability, contemporary language, and process conceptualization. More recently, Anderson and Krathwohl (2001) have adapted Bloom's model to fit the needs of today's classroom by employing more outcome-oriented language, workable objectives, and changing nouns to active verbs (see "stairs" below). Most notably, knowledge has been converted to remember. In addition, the highest level of development is create rather than evaluate.
  • Marzano - How Classroom Teachers Approach the Teaching of Thinking
  • The Innovative Educator: Ten Ideas for Getting Started with 21st Century Teaching and Learning
    I'm often asked for advice on how to get started with using 21st century tools to enhance teaching and learning. The mistake some people make is believing educators instantly need to become producers of websites, blogs, wikis, podcasts, social networks etc. Most educators need to become comfortable and familiar as participants in these environments before they can feel successful as creators in these areas. To follow are ideas that educators who want to get started with educating innovatively can explore.
  • Review: Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time « Books on the Brain
    So let me save all of you a few precious hours of your life and just give you the condensed version of Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace… One School At A Time by Greg Mortenson and David Relin. I wish someone had done that for me! There's this big dorky American who climbs mountains, but not that well...
  • She Is Too Fond Of Books … » Blog Archive » Book Review: Three Cups of Tea
    There were two obstacles in my way as I tried to enjoy reading Three Cups of Tea, both involve the way the story is conveyed, not the underlying message. The first lies in the almost hero-like worship Relin bestows upon Mortenson , allowing perhaps a generous amount of artistic license taken with the details, which Relin acknowledges fully in the opening pages, confirming for example that Mortenson seems to work with a very fluid sense of time.
  • Of Beetles and Angels: a Boy's Remarkable Journey from a Refugee Camp to Harvard - Book Review | Black Issues Book Review | Find Articles at BNET
    Asgedom employs elegant, uncluttered prose to tell of his struggle, surviving both the daily battles of the Sudanese camps, and the more insidious battles during his acculturation into the lily-white Chicago suburbs where he lands upon his arrival.
  • The Labyrinth Library: Review 27: Three Cups of Tea
    Podcast of this review is also available. It's a great book, which opens a vivid window into a part of the world that most Westerners greatly misunderstand. It illustrates the wide variety of cultures and peoples that live in Central Asia, and the cultural history that has given rise to such a potential for conflict. The writing is very engaging, and there were a few points where I thought that the landscape descriptions were worthy of Tolkien - high praise indeed, I should think.
  • Of Beetles and Angels | Bookstove
    Student review: If you had to leave America, move to another country, and without knowing the language, the people, or anything about the land how would you feel? Would you expect to be treated nicely by the native people? In the book Of Beetles & Angels a family from Ethiopia, moved to America and had to survive in America.
  • "A Conversation with Mawi Asgedom" by Bella Stander
    Sometimes you meet the best people-and read the best books-by accident. Of course, there's a greater probability of such accidents happening if you attend the publishing industry's enormous trade show, BookExpo America. At the end of a long day last June, I was crammed into a ballroom with hundreds of other weary conventioneers, and fell into conversation with a slim young man standing next to me. His name was Mawi Asgedom, he said, and he was at BEA for the first time because he'd written and self-published a memoir, Of Beetles and Angels: A True Story of the American Dream.
  • One journey, one book, one school
    Asgedom's first book was selected by the leadership team at Mckinley because it fit the goal of applied interest across age levels and reading ability. Students in grades six through eight read the book during April and May. Asgedom will visit the school today to discuss his journey from Ethiopia, to graduation from Harvard in 1999, to his life today as an author, speaker and American success story.
  • Coded Inspiration: A Conversation with Mawi Asgedom by mikeOne < feature |
    As individuals, we are by definition unique. Bottled within each and everyone of us, is a life unlike any other, full of its own laughs and tears; joys and heartache; triumphs and trials. The one constant is the journey in time we all, willing or otherwise, embark on. For people in the diaspora the journey is both literal and figurative. Along with the steady tides of time, we brave new shores in search of that elusive betterment. Whether we find what we seek is both subjective and immaterial.
  • Building schools in Afghanistan | PRI.ORG
    Greg Mortenson, co-author of the mega-bestseller Three Cups of Tea, has his own version of the debate over guns versus butter. How much a society spends on military needs versus civilian needs comes down to bombs versus books, or as Mortenson puts it, peace through literacy.
  • YouTube - Loco Book Review - Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
    I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't enjoy reading this book - it's full of adventure, heartwarming relationships, a rollercoaster of emotions, exciting culture, and downright goodness.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Links for Teaching Literary Criticism

  • John Lye's Courses and Sources Pages
    "Meaning" is a difficult issue, and what I have to say here only scratches the surface of a complex and contested area. How do we know what a work of literature is 'supposed'; to mean, or what its 'real' meaning is? There are several ways to approach this: * that meaning is what is intended by the author ; * that meaning is created by and contained in the text itself ; * that meaning is created by the reader.
  • Department of English Languages and Literature - Courses
    Professor John Lye explores: -What is the Nature of and What Are the Functions of Literature? -What is the Nature of the Subject? -Who is the Reader? -What is the Relation of the Author to the Text? -What are the Relations of the Author and the Text to Society? -Where (and How) Does 'Reality' Exist? -What is Representation (Mimesis)? -What is the Nature and Status of Language? -What is the Relation of "Form" and "Art" to Meaning? -Where is Meaning?
  • Brock University - Department of English Language and Literature
    Professor John Lye's page on literary theory.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What Teachers (and Students) Should Know About Facebook Privacy Settings

Did you know that a Google search can pull up photos you post to Facebook? Did you know that college admissions offices are now using services like Pipl to see what potential candidates are posting to social networking sites? Below are links to number of blog posts and websites that go into more detail about what both teachers and students should know when it comes to Facebook's privacy settings. Are you protecting yourself, your images, and your content? You should be.
  • Beyond Social Networking: Building Toward Learning Communities -- THE Journal

    Web 2.0 tools have critically elevated the social networking activity and skills of individuals. Not only are young people highly active in social networks, but older individuals are also showing a huge increase in their use of these tools. The attraction of older age groups is, of course, social connection and community building among professional and casual peers and friends.
  • FACEBOOK FAIL: How to Use Facebook Privacy Settings and Avoid Disaster

    The beauty of Facebook’s many features is that now you can choose what you show and to what type of people. By using friend lists and playing with your privacy settings, you can create different views for each segment of your life.
  • Langwitches » Teacher Code of Conduct… Revisited

    I am wondering if there is a necessity to create a guideline or code of conduct how teachers are to present themselves in their private online network places profiles? Does the administration at school or the district have the right (duty) to bring the subject up for discussion and in the end to make rules? Is it their business or not?
  • Facebook in the Classroom

    A good PDF resource for teachers on how to use Facebook with students.
  • Facebook Strategies For The Classroom

    This presentation explores the potential uses of Facebook for teaching and motivating collaboration between students. Issues of privacy and intellectual property will also be covered, as well as advantages and pitfalls of social networks.
  • Facebook Privacy for Teachers « Megan Golding

    I’m a Facebook user AND a teacher. Here’s how I locked down my profile so that I can have a social life and not worry that the world is watching over my shoulder.
  • 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know

    All Facebook users should know this.

  • NetSmartz Workshop | Facebook

    A good place to start for talking with students and staff about privacy issues on social networking sites like Facebook.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Resources for Teaching The Kite Runner

I'll be teaching Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner for the first time this fall. To prepare, I've spent the last few days gathering resources and thinking about how I might frame this story when I present it to students. I teach a tenth grade World Literatures course, where students study fiction, non-fiction, and creative texts from the non-western world. As we read the various texts, we hone in on perspective - What perspective does the narrator represent/present? What perspective do we as readers from particular backgrounds and with particular experiences bring to a text? What perspective do other readers and writers offer on this text? So in thinking about how I might bring this theme into our reading of The Kite Runner, I'm considering presenting the students the basics of literary criticism to help frame the reading of the text.

I've taught students literary criticism basics in the past. We've discussed the foundations of historical, formalist, feminist/gender studies, psychoanalytical, and reader response theories as a type of lens that a reader might don to help understand the particulars of a text. By teaching literary criticism as a lens, I have found it also helps students understand some related literary tropes and devices. In the past, students have completed a WebQuest activity to help introduce the various theories.

The Kite Runner could prove fruitful for this type of study. However, I worry that using this type of frame might reduce the story to nothing more than its devices and context. I suppose this is the danger when teaching literary criticism in general. I'd love your thoughts and feedback on anything I should consider as I work on this curriculum unit.

In the meantime, I thought I would share some of the resources that I found online that might help others as they consider teaching this text.

  • My Lesson Plan Materials
    Using many of the sources listed below, I created the linked lesson plans above that I use with my tenth grade English students.
  • Discussion Materials from Bucks County
    Kite Runner was selected as one of the "One Book, One Bucks County" project. This document includes a wealth of resources listed by grade-level.
  • Teaching Materials from Literary Cavalcade
    This document contains an excerpt from the novel, background information, and follow-up activities, including a narrative based on an incident in the reader's childhood.
  • Historical Materials from Amnesty International
    I want to thank the Human Rights Education Program at Amnesty International USA for this comprehensive guide to The Kite Runner film. I think they have done a terrific service to the students, and I am grateful to them for bringing to light the nuances and many complexities of Afghan society and Afghan life via this guide.
  • My Pinterest Collection for Teaching The Kite Runner
    In an effort to keep a current collection of resources for teaching The Kite Runner, I am using this Pinterest board to continually curate a contemporary collection of resources.
  • Study Guide for the Historical Background of The Kite Runner
    As the table of contents shows, this Study Guide is organized into sections corresponding to the requirements any teacher might consider - pre-, during and post-reading activities. One of the virtues of this novel is that it unequivocally places the reader inside the narrator's experience of the Pastun culture. At the same time, this quality may create barriers for younger readers. This guide includes writing and reading activities to familiarize students with the background, history, and culture of Afghanistan.
  • The Kite Runner Connects the English and History Classrooms
    "Promote Independent Thinking with The Kite Runner" is a curriculum unit that includes discussion questions and links to a WebQuests and unit plans.
  • Lessons shared on Teachers Pay Teachers
    Haven't used Teachers Pay Teachers before? Check it out! Registration is free. Teachers post lesson plans for just about anything you can think of, some for free, some for minimal cost. This is a link to all the lessons on the site for The Kite Runner.
  • The Kite Runner Summary at WikiSummaries
    Just found this. Apparently, WikiSummaries is similar to Sparknotes with chapter-by-chapter summaries.
  • "The Kite Runner" Banned In Afghanistan - CBS News
    The Afghan government banned the film more than a month ago because of a rape scene of a young boy and the ethnic tensions that the film highlights, said Din Mohammad Rashed Mubarez, the deputy minister of the Ministry of Information and Culture. Shops selling the movie would be closed, he said.
  • Teacher Handouts for The Kite Runner
    A final assessment for reading The Kite Runner. Use the links on the left side of the page to also access the teacher's materials for teaching this book.
  • My Prezi to Introduce The Kite Runner
    This is the Prezi that I put together to introduce the historical background of The Kite Runner.  Here is the video version of my introduction.
UPDATED: Here are some more background resources and even more curriculum planning materials.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Today's Interesting Links

  • movingforward - Education Blogs by Discipline
    This is a place to list subject-specific, P-12-oriented blogs that are worth sharing with others. Only list really good ones, please!
  • TakingITGlobal - Organizations - Research Journalism Initiative
    The Research Journalism Initiative (RJI) helps American high school students relate personally to international conflict issues by bringing perspectives from regions of conflict directly into their classrooms. RJI is dedicated to developing new tools for students learning about global conflict...
  • By Sarah Fine -- Why I Left Teaching Behind -
    Four years later, the question I encounter is equally thorny: Why leave teaching? It's not just a question about how I'll pay my rent. Reformers have big plans to transform failing urban schools, and their work hinges on finding a way to keep strong teachers in the classroom. By throwing in the towel, I have become one more teacher abandoning her students.
  • Flickr: Creative Commons- Free Pictures
    This group is for sharing images to use in your work with a creative commons license
  • Flickriver: Most interesting photos from Creative Commons- Free Pictures pool
  • Looking for a Unique Gift for an Administrator? Give ‘em a PLN! | Nebraska Change Agent
    How exactly do you give a PLN to someone? Several suggestions have been made today, but the one you pick depends on your relationship with your administrator. Instead of signing up for a Twitter account for them I am going to offer to help them set up one up. I will have a profile picture of them ready to go and I will have some suggestions for their biography. I will also show them how to manage and share the information that they find valuable so they can become an asset to their PLN.
  • The LoTi Connection
    This year marks the 15th anniversary of the LoTi Framework. Since its inception in 1994, the LoTi Framework has been used as a statewide technology use survey, a district school improvement model, and a classroom walkthrough tool impacting thousands of schools nationally. Today, the LoTi project has grown beyond classroom technology use and has become synonymous with innovative teaching practices.
  • FRONTLINE: digital nation: blog/news: A chat with Obama's new Secretary of Education | PBS
    I knew that Duncan was a big believer in standardized assessments, but those didn't come up in our conversation. He came off as solidly on the side of those who think that schools need to move with kids instead of against them, and that means using the toys kids love--games and cellphones--to teach them, inside and outside the classroom walls.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Today's Interesting Links

  • Teacher Training Videos created by Russell Stannard
    Click on this simple intro to find out how to use the videos. These videos were created for teachers to help them to incorporate technology into their teaching. Just click and a video will open and take you through how to use that technology. To start now, just click on any of the links on the left. My own background is in teaching English, so if you scroll down you will see a special section of ELT videos which are grouped separately.
  • Information Literacy: Building Blocks of Research: Overview
    What is Information Literacy? Information Literacy is a transformational process in which the learner needs to find, understand, evaluate, and use information in various forms to create for personal, social or global purposes. Information Literacy shares a fundamental set of core thinking- and problem-solving meta-skills with other disciplines. Authentic cross-disciplinary problems which include observation and inference, analysis of symbols and models, comparison of perspectives, and assessment of the rhetorical context, engage students in developing mastery information literacy over time.
  • Technology and Education - Box of Tricks
    Latest update July 16th 2009 These are some of the best free internet resources for education. This page is constantly updated; every time I come across a new piece of software or an exciting website, I list it here. You might also want to take a look at my Diigo or Delicious accounts for more links. This list is not exhaustive in any way. In fact, if you think there is a tool or application for use in education that should be added to this list, please don't hesitate to get in touch and suggest it!
  • Beyond Social Networking: Building Toward Learning Communities -- THE Journal
    Web 2.0 tools have critically elevated the social networking activity and skills of individuals. Not only are young people highly active in social networks, but older individuals are also showing a huge increase in their use of these tools. The attraction of older age groups is, of course, social connection and community building among professional and casual peers and friends.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Online Learning

I'm almost finished with my 4th week of this summer's PB Works Summer Camp for Teachers where I've been able to connect with other educators who are interested in finding ways to use collaborative technologies in their classrooms. Not only has it been great to revise and refine my wiki, but it has been incredibly helpful to learn and connect with other teachers interested in opening up their classrooms using wikis. And the number of teachers participating in this year's online camp is astonishing - over 1,000 elementary, secondary, and higher-education teachers! I've connected with teachers not just through the PB Works page but also through the PB Works Educator Forum and through Twitter using the #pbwcamp hashtag.

In addition to the PB Works course, I also just started a five week summer course with TiGed. The course is part of the Pennsylvania Classrooms for the Future (CFF) Summer Virtual Camps and is open to all CFF coaches and teachers. This will be a bit of a different experience for me. Unlike the PB Works online summer camp, I know next to nothing about TiGed. I've had my PB wiki for over a year so this year's camp was a bit of a review. TiGed is all new to me. But having used multiple different avenues to connect my students who those elsewhere in the world (Facebook, wikis, web pages, Nings, PTPi), I'm looking forward to finding one service that might help me to streamline some of those connections and collaborations. My goal is to find more ways to engage my English students in producing written works and products for authentic audiences. I see wikis and TiGed as ways to encourage those authentic opportunities.

As part of the first class, our TiGed instructor shared Scott McLeod and Karl Fisch's updated "Did You Know." So now, I'm sharing it with you!

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