FETC Virtual Conference Registration open

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The FETC Virtual Conference is Thursday, April 28th, 2011 from 10:30am - 6:00pm (ET).

This is a great, free, online conference with some great resources, presentations, and networking. There is also a virtual exhibit hall with vendor reps and information. The virtual conference is easy to navigate and contains video presentations, discussion forums, vendor sites, and more. There are downloads available and everything is archived for future reference. Attend all of it, or just pop in when you have time.

Some of the vendors even have drawings for freebies (which is always nice)

Some of the sessions are from or based-on sessions from the live FETC event just held.

What a great way to learn and connect and get new ideas and resources for your teaching.

Don't forget about TeachMeet New Jersey this weekend too!

Some Common Education Myths Debunked

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Educational Mythbusting

With everything going on with public education these days, I thought I'd take the time to "bust" some education myths.

Myth: Teachers get paid too much
Reality: we get paid fair or less than fair wages for the effort, training, professionalism, and work we do. But, we do it because we love it. We also spend a huge amount of our own money on supplies, resources, and conferences and education. In private industry, the company provides what you need to do your job. Not so in education.

Myth: Teachers get paid over the summer
Reality: some teachers can elect to have their salary divided up into 26 paychecks a year as opposed to 21. We don't get paid anything extra.

Myth: Teacher unions are bad
Reality: most teacher unions are a good thing. They fight for fair pay and working conditions for teachers, allowing a district to attract good teachers. They fight for class size and resources, making a better environment for students.

Myth: Tenure and unions protect bad teachers
Reality: tenure and unions just give teachers due process before firing. They push for assistance vs. adversary. I've seen tenured teachers who were union reps get let go because of their performance.

Myth: Education is too expensive, we have to cut funding
Reality: education is expensive, but it is worth it. It is an investment in the future, even if you don't have any kids. Everyone benefits from a strong educational system. There are places were education can be more efficient and money savvy, but cutting funding and teachers without proper plans lead to very bad outcomes.

Myth: Class size doesn't matter
Reality: class size is a major factor in student success. Smaller classes mean more time per student from the teacher and a more orderly environment.

Myth: We can't run education like a business
Reality: we can, but only in certain ways. Educational administration and planning is very inefficient and should adopt proven business strategies. However, we can not treat students as "product".

Myth: Teachers get great benefits for free, or low cost
Reality: Teachers get good benefits, that they pay for. I worked as an engineer for ten years before becoming an educator and I got much better benefits as an engineer in private industry than as a public school teacher.

Myth: Teach for America is a great program
Reality: Teach for America is a nice program that can help some school systems out in a crisis. But TfA puts inexperienced college graduates into schools with 5 weeks of training. What other job does that? Can you imagine a Doctors for America, Pilots for America, or Cops for America? Of course not. They other issue with TfA is that they are only required to teach for two years. It takes 3+ years to get settled and proficient as a teacher. Also, TfA costs lots of money from the government. I don't see why districts are hiring TfA candidates when there are fully certified and experienced teachers looking for work.

Myth: Charter Schools are the future of education
Reality: Charter schools do use tax money, are very selective in who attends, are able to have small class sizes and more resources, and yet the students at these schools don't do any better in testing than public school students.

Now, I didn't list references, but a quick search of the internet will show lots of information and resources.

Please share your thoughts with us.

Google Docs Viewer adds more formats

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Google Docs viewer is a feature that allows users to view different file formats in Google Docs. It is also integrated into Chrome and Gmail, allowing you to view attachments without downloading them. Viewing documents online is a nice way to read or view something without downloading it to your computer. 
Google Docs Viewer has been used to view PDFs, Microsoft Word Documents (DOC, DOCX) and PowerPoint Presentations (PPT, PTTX). Now, there are 12 more file types added to Docs Viewer.

  • Microsoft Excel (.XLS and .XLSX)
  • Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 / 2010 (.PPTX)
  • Apple Pages (.PAGES)
  • Adobe Illustrator (.AI)
  • Adobe Photoshop (.PSD)
  • Autodesk AutoCad (.DXF)
  • Scalable Vector Graphics (.SVG)
  • PostScript (.EPS, .PS)
  • TrueType (.TTF)
  • XML Paper Specification (.XPS)

In Gmail, there is a "view" link that will appear if the attachment is a supported file type.

You can also now upload these file types to Google Docs and then share them with others.

This is a great feature that allows online viewing of different file formats without needing to download the files or have specific software.

Here is a standalone page for using Google Docs to view a file: (just enter the file url)

High Def Teacher - resources for teachers

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High Def Teacher is a collection of resources for teachers, submitted by teachers.

The site resources are organized into topics for easy searching. There is even a "top rated" and "new" topic to make it easy to find great resources. There are also sites of the week for each category and some articles about education posted. Each resource is rated by users, which gives you a preview of the quality or usefulness of the resource.

Topics: Top Rated, New, General, English, Math, Science, Social Studies, World Languages, Electives. Some of the topics, such as Science, also have subtopic categories.

This is another great site to find resources to help improve teaching and learning.

TeachMeet NJ - free educational unconference this Sat in New Jersey

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TeachMeet New Jersey is this coming Saturday, March 5th, in New Jersey. It is being held at Rutger's University.

An Unconference is a little different than a conference. In an unconference, conversations and sharing are emphasized over lectures/presentations. Participants can come and go during sessions to get the most out of the day.

TeachMeet NJ has a huge number of sessions and session leaders and looks to be a great day of learning and sharing.

I'll be talking about "Differentiation in Science" and "Top 10 Free Resources for Students and Teachers."

For more information and to register, go to http://tmnj.org/

Schedule: http://tmnj.org/schedule/

Register to come: http://tmnj.eventbrite.com/  It's FREE!

If you can't make it in person, follow #tmnj11 on Twitter. Sessions will be uStreamed and recorded and presenter materials will be posted online.

Here is a link to the press release flyer: http://tmnj.org/2011/01/20/tmnj-press-release/

DNA - great resource on DNA from PBS

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DNA is a great resource from PBS. The site has resources on DNA separated into episodes. Life, Playing God, Human Race, Curing Cancer, and Pandora's Box are the 5 episodes. Each "episode" is a web page with information about DNA and how it applies to different topics. There are links to more in depth resources, videos, and much more. There is also a timeline of DNA research and discoveries and a 3D DNA Explorer (uses Adobe Shockwave) that allows you to manipulate a 3D image of a DNA segment. You can rotate and zoom in on different parts of the segment.

DNA is a great tool for biology teachers as it gives them and their students scientific information as well as touching on issues relating to society and ethics.

Moral Relativism or Mutual Respect?

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I had a lively conversation yesterday with a group of fifth graders about how we can understand, respect and evaluate cultures other than our own. The conversation took off when one student asked, "Why do we have so many different cultures in the world?" The students pointed out the ways in which the diversity of cultures gives rise to conflicts, but also observed that a world without a variety of cultures would be pretty uninteresting.

One student then asserted that we aren't really justified in making judgments about cultures other than our own, because we're not understanding them "from the inside" and so are evaluating their practices without really understanding why the people in that culture are doing what they do. This led to a thoughtful dialogue among the students about when, and if ever, people or groups outside of a culture are justified in criticizing, or intervening in, a cultural practice.

We talked about the different standards for disciplining children around the world. Several students articulated a distinction between coming to another country and practicing, for example, a form of corporal punishment unacceptable here, and doing so in your own country. The students tended to claim that it is one thing to insist that someone from another culture change their practice when they enter a different culture (or country), but that it is another thing to criticize the way people are disciplining their children when they are acting on the basis of a different set of rules and standards within that culture.

Still, some students argued, the way the harsh discipline feels to the children is the same. And can't cultures be mistaken? We talked about the fact that in the US, for example, slavery was an acceptable part of the culture for a long period of time, and we would now want to say that this was wrong, that the institutions that supported that practice were in error. And if it's true that cultures can make mistakes in sanctioning acts that ultimately the culture concludes were wrong, how do we decide when intervention is appropriate?

Several students raised the example of the Nazi regime, asserting that there intervention to stop what the German culture was allowing would have been justified. One student suggested that perhaps the standard should be whether human beings were being harmed in serious ways, and we noted that this standard also led to interpretation problems (What constitutes harm? When is it serious? etc.). We discussed the practice of young people marrying at young ages, 12 or 13, in some cultures, a practice that clearly horrified the children. Yet, we pointed out, inside those cultures, that is an accepted and perhaps welcome practice.

How do we know what it feels like from the inside? Can we? And if we can't, does that mean we never are justified in judging or intervening to stop a cultural practice that seems deeply at odds with the ways our culture believes people should be treated? Are there some moral rules that apply to everyone, no matter where and how they live? The students saw clearly what challenging issues these questions raise.

A Personal Learning Network for Parents

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As educators, we speak of Personal Learning Networks (PLN) for ourselves, and sometimes our students. But what about parents?

Parents need resources to help them stay connected with school and their child's education. School memos and newsletters are not enough. One phone number at the school is not enough. Even having the email and/or phone number of teachers and counselors is not enough.

Here are some things that schools and districts should do to help parents have a PLN of their own:

1. School website - constantly updated, with links, resources, news, information, and contacts for teachers and staff. Information should be easy to find and read. Website should also have built-in translation abilities or instructions for using something like Google Translate. This is very important for limited or non-English speaking parents.
School blogs and Twitter accounts can also be used to share information with parents.

2. Email addresses - for child's teachers, administrator, and counselor. And, email list for other resources, like the school nurse, social worker, ELL coordinator, etc.

3. Phone list - for everyone listed in email address above.

4. Monthly parent workshops where parents can come to the school and meet the faculty and staff and make connections. They would also learn about the different resources at the school and district and how these resources can help them and their child. These workshops could also focus on tips and resources for creating a rich learning environment in the home for their child. There could also be seminars on computers, English language, parenting, and more.

5. Parent-Teacher Association contacts and meeting times need to be well published also.

6. Online Student information system - parents should be able to access real time grades and attendance information about their child. Most SIS offer this now.

7. Schoolwork and Homework help - help parents understand how to help their children with homework, even if they don't understand the subject matter. Give them ideas on providing time and space for the student to work. Helping students get good nutrition and enough sleep. Giving parents a list of resources to pass onto the student (like websites, tutoring, and the library).

These are great resources to help parents find information and help for them and/or their child. The personal connections are most important though. As parents meet staff in person they will feel more comfortable utilizing them and coming to them with issues and concerns.

Many parents feel disconnected from schools, especially in the higher grades when there are multiple teachers and administrators to deal with. Schools must work to give parents easy access to information and resources, and make parents feel comfortable in contacting the school for help.

What are your ideas for PLN's for Parents?

UPDATE: I forgot one great source for parents in a PLN - other parents. They can make connections, talk, help each other, share babysitting, carpools, etc.

Great educator resources from Richard Byrne

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Here's a website I think you'll like:

Richard Byrne's Professional Development Resource: Richard Byrne 

"The site is basically a collection of my favorite resources categorized according to the function they perform. You won't find resources categorized by content area. Rather you'll find it is categorized by topics like creating videos, creating blogs, creating websites, etc."

There are a lot of great resources here for educators.

-- David Andrade
Sent from my Palm Pre+

Holy Cow - I've been blogging here for two years already?

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I completely missed it last week while I was serving on a jury that I had reached my two year anniversary of blogging. My first blog posts were on Wednesday, February 11th 2009. This post makes 566 articles.

It's been fun, rewarding and educational writing this blog. I've learned and found some great resources and met some great people. I started it just to see if I could and to share some things and it's been a great experience. I've seen my writing and layouts improve over the two years.

Thank you to all of my readers!! I hope my writings have been useful! I can't wait to see what I can find and write about next.

Google Dictionary - online dictionary with great info

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Google Dictionary is another great resource from Google.

Simply go to the site, pick the language and type in your search.

Like most dictionaries, it returns the word, in phonetic spelling, with an audio file on how to pronounce it. There is also the definitions, related phrases, related languages, usage examples and web definitions. The related language shows if the same word exists in another language.

The related phrases and usage examples are great for trying to truly understand a word and how it is used. This is a great tool for all teachers and students.

Here is what was returned for "teacher":

Encyclopedia of Life - great biology resource

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Encyclopedia of Life is a website that has web pages for each species of organism. Each page contains photos, physical description, habitat, references, other links, taxonomy and much more. You can even create a free account and contribute to the pages.

It is easy to use, easy to read, well designed and informative. It is a definite for all biology teachers and students.

Brookstone Boogie Board - paperless note pad - I love it

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I rarely mention anything on this blog that isn't free. I've talked about my smartphone, but I usually keep to free things. But, I got a great gift this Christmas that I want to share. I am not making any money by talking about this.

My wife and I saw the Brookstone Boogie Board while looking for a gift for my father. It is a paperless notepad. It is small, thin and lightweight. You write on it using the stylus, or even your finger. It has sealed battery that lasts for 50,000 erasures. I figure 50,000 erasures will last about 20 years or so. It only uses power to clear the screen. As teachers, we both thought this would be a great tool and bought each other one for Christmas.

Usually, I would have a notepad and pen on my desk at school to take quick notes, reminders, etc. But I was going through a lot of paper. The Boogie Board eliminates that issue. I leave it on my desk and can quickly and easily jot down notes on it. I can later enter them into Evernote, my calendar, or just erase them when done.

When you hit erase, it wipes out the whole screen, so you have to make sure you are done with everything you wrote.

It retails for $35, but I've probably saved quite a bit in paper costs (and saved a bunch of trees) and pens and will easily save more than that on paper over it's lifetime.

Black background and green "ink"
Dimensions: 8.8" x 5.6" by 1/8" thick
Weight: 4.2 oz
Cost: $35

I love mine and think it was well worth the money.

Unfettered by Stuff - or "Why I don't lug stuff home every night"

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It always amazes me at the amount of stuff some teachers seem to carry home every night and back into school the next day. They also are amazed at the fact that 95% of the time, I'm not carrying anything either way (except maybe my lunch). Two teachers asked me about this the other day and were shocked at why I don't have to carry things home to work on. I decided I'd also share that explanation here.

Most of what teachers are carrying with them is their grade book, lesson plan book, student work to grade, lesson resources, textbooks, and the like. I've been able to escape all of that because of my use of technology. Technology has saved me from carrying lots of things around (which is good since I have two herniated discs in my back - too many years as a paramedic). It's also part of my quest for going paperless, which is only hampered by student computer access.

Here's my list of tools, resources, and reasons why I don't have to carry stuff back and forth between home and school:

1. I teach science and use project based learning - there isn't much paper work for me to grade from my students. The only thing they don't do electronically is their problem sets and those I check in class. Their tests are paper based, but I correct those after school before going home. In rare occasions, tests are what I would be carrying home to finish grading. The lab reports, online work, and projects are all written up electronically and send to me either by email, DropItToMe or through another system. I can access this work anywhere, including on my smartphone, to review, grade and give feedback.

2. I don't use a textbook with the class, instead using online resources - I use digital resources with the class -Google Docs, Discovery Education, web sites, and class blogs. I have access to all of my lesson resources online. I do have some textbooks that I use for reference, but I have electronic versions, which have the textbook and all instructor resources in PDF form (thanks Glencoe and Holt!). I also have a hard copy of multiple physics textbooks at home that I can access if need be.

3. Cloud based computing and file storage - All of my resources are electronic. If they weren't created electronically, or available electronically, I scan them and save them as PDF files. I use Dropbox, Sugarsync, and Zumodrive to have all of my files and resources available to me at school, at home, via smartphone, or from any computer. I can grade work and give feedback, check and take notes, work on lesson plans, and much more from anywhere.

4. Cloud based apps - I rarely use computer based software anymore. I do have desktop versions of many things at home, but at school I use mostly web based apps. I use Evernote, Google Docs, Blogger, Google Sites, Gmail, TweetDeck and more to do my work. I can access my files and do my work anywhere, from any computer or smartphone. Evernote has my lesson plans, web clippings, notes from meetings, notes and ideas for lessons, reference information from school, and more. I scan in memos and documents and store many of them in Evernote for easy access and searching. I even take pictures of posters, notes on white boards, and such and upload the photo into Evernote for storage, accessibility, and searching.

5. Smartphone - I have a Palm (now HP) Pre+ smartphone. I love it. The calendar and contacts automatically sync with my Google Calendar and Contacts so I'm always updated. I can go online to any website for access to my data or to search the web. I have access to all three of my email accounts. Apps let me get tons of things done: Dropbox, Twitter, Google, Evernote, DocsToGo, and much more all allow me to do with my smartphone what I do with a computer. This means I don't need a notebook, date book, lesson planner, or grade book. Since all of those things are online, I can access them through apps on my smartphone or through a website. I can access student info, take notes in meetings, look up my schedule, answer a student question via email, and so much more. All with a device that fits in my pocket.

So, everything I use is available online, anywhere I go. 90% of student work is done and submitted electronically. All my resources are electronic and available to me anytime. Instead of carrying pounds of notes, books and student work with me, I carry a 138.5 gram (4.89 oz ) smartphone and let the internet carry everything else.

Resources to Replace Textbooks

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"Beyond Textbooks" is a well used mantra by educational technology companies and districts who are moving away from traditional print textbooks to digital media and resources.

I don't use a textbook with my Physics classes for many reasons: the textbooks are old and outdated (but in good physical condition), the textbooks are hard to read, they are heavy, and they don't have any way to get help or expand on the material.

I use a variety of materials with my Physics classes in place of the textbooks. I use Blogger and Google Sites to create a class blog and class website. The blog is where I post assignments, information, reminders, and more and the site has links, downloads, and other information. For class materials that replace a textbook, I use:

  1. Handouts with summary of concept, example problems, and problem sets for students to complete. These go into their notebooks for them to keep.They are also available on the class website in case anyone forgets or loses theirs. 
  2. Physics Classroom - this is an excellent resource for physics students. It has topic explanations, demonstrations and animations, multimedia movies, example problems and more. 
  3. Online resources from different publishers. Many textbook publishers allow free access to their online materials. My students use the Glencoe Physics site to do practice tests. The site automatically grades them and sends me the student's score. There are also other textbook sites that have resources and links. 
  4. PhET Physics Simulations - this site is hosted by the University of Colorado at Boulder. The site has animations and virtual labs for physics, chemistry, earth science, biology, and math. There are even lesson plans and assignments with most of the simulations, created by teachers. 
  5. Online and downloadable, free Physics "textbooks" - I give my students links to three free physics "textbooks" - The Physics Study Guide, Motion Mountain Free Downloadable Physics Textbook, and FHSST Physics online physics textbook. These are free, accessible from anywhere, and are well written with examples, links, and good explanations of concepts. 
  6. Physics Central - great site with lesson resources, physics in action, physics in everyday life, and much more. 
  7. Discovery Education - I use a variety of Discovery Education resources with my physics classes. Some of the videos on DE Streaming are excellent. They are not long (average 25 min) and explain concepts very well. I also use some other DE resources as projects and research with my students. Discovery Education News, Science of Everyday Life, and Science Fair Central are some of the ones I use. 
  8. Multimedia Science School - this is software our district purchased a few years ago that has multimedia lesson in Biology, Chemistry and Physics. The guided lessons include videos, animations, virtual labs and more and are a great resource for science teachers. 
  9. For my AP Physics class, I also use Learn AP Physics which has videos, lectures, example problems, study tips, and problem solving tips. 
  10. Projects and Labs - I do a lot of projects and labs with my students. The resources listed above, along with Google, give them access to information and assistance on topics. They also interact with me via email and the class blog. The projects and labs we do are where they get to apply their conceptual knowledge and learn even more about a topic. 
I have no need for a physics textbook because of all of these resources. I must also point out that I have 7 student computers in my room, so I don't need to worry about scheduling in the computer lab or signing out the laptop cart. 

My students work on the projects and labs in groups and except for the Multimedia Science School software, have access to all of these resources at home. I've even had students access some of the resources on their smartphones while working on a project or lab, which I think it awesome.

These resources are free (except for MSS and DE Streaming), accessible from anywhere, constantly updated, interactive, multimedia, and explain the concepts very well. Why do I need 150 copies of a textbook, at $100 each, that will be outdated before they get to me, can get damaged or lost, can't update, and have no links or activities?

These kinds of resources exist for all subjects and grade levels, not just high school science. There are a million different resources to use in your classroom besides a textbook. 

What resources do you use in place of, or in addition to, textbooks?

Educational Technology Network

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Educational Technology Network is a site that has some nice resources and tips/ideas for using technology in the classroom.

The resources are divided up by category and include ideas for using document cameras, PowerPoint, Social Networking and much more.

The blog link seems outdated as the newest post I saw was from August of 2009, but the site has some nice ideas and tips for educators.

Discovery Education Turfmutt - environmental science lessons

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Discovery Education's Turfmutt is another great, free resource for teachers from Discovery Education.

Turfmutt has lesson plans, videos, puzzles, activities, resources and more for educators and students to learn about the environment and how to protect it. There is even a contest for classes to enter.

Most of it is geared towards grades 3-5, but I found plenty of material and activities that are good for middle school and high school.

If you teach environmental science or about the environment, this is a resource you need to check out.

Citation help resources - make citing sources easier

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I have always had issues with citing sources. In the old days it was easier. We just used what the teacher or professor told us and the format wasn't that specific. Nowadays, there is MLA, APA and other formats that have to be used, plus you have web sites, blogs, and online magazines to cite. Here are some sites that can help you with your citing and research. (all are free).

Son of Citation Machine - this cite is very easy to use. You click on the type of formatting you want to use (MLA, APA, Turabian, or Chicago) then the type of resource (email, web site, book, encyclopedia, and many, many more) then fill out the web form with the info required and it will create the citation for you. Very powerful and easy to use.

bibme is another easy to use citation resource. You can search for a book, website, etc. or enter the information yourself and even create a bibliography on the site and then download it in one of four formats (MLA, APA, Turabian, or Chicago). It supports lots of types of resources, like books, websites, films, newspapers, and more.

Purdue University Owl - The Owl Online Writing Lab from Purdue University has help and instructions for citing different resources in different formats (MLA, APA and Chicago), as well as help in conducting research and using the research. It does not create your citations, but shows you the correct format.

Zotero - Zotero is another nice tool for research and citation. It allows you to collect, organize, cite, and share your resources in different formats (MLA, APA, Chicago and more.) It is a download, not a web app and integrates with Word and OpenOffice. It does sync your data online so you have access from any computer and even from mobile devices.

100+ Free Internet Resources for Real Teachers in Real Classrooms

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100+ Free Internet Resources for Real Teachers in Real Classrooms is a great resource created by Pamela Kenney, a principal from Florida, who presented this at FETC 2011. 

The site has resources and links broken down into categories: Digital Storytelling, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Teacher tools. 

I already knew about some of them, but found some great new resources too. Check it out.

GMT Slider - compare time zones around the world

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GMT Slider is a simple site with a neat function. You select different cities or time zones and it adds sliders for each one. All the sliders work together, allowing you to see different times in different places on earth. As you start to type a city, a drop down selection menu appears allowing you to select it.

It is fun to use and is great for teaching about time zones. I was using it to see what time it was for some of the people that I have in my PLN around the world.

The Dragon who liked to spit Fire

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This delightful picture book by Judy Varga, written in 1961, tells the story of Darius, a little dragon, and the friendship he develops with young prince Frederic. Can Darius be himself, a dragon who likes nothing more than to spit fire (in many colors), and still be friends with Frederic?

Darius decides to move to Frederic's castle with Frederic. Darius makes this choice because he has been lonely and he wants to be close to Frederic, although he is wary that he will not be able to spit fire at the castle. As Darius tells Frederic, "[L]ife without spitting fire wouldn't be much of a life for a dragon." Frederic tells Darius that he will be able to spit fire when they are alone. Darius is made to feel very at home in the castle, but he finds that he can't ever spit fire, because he and Frederic are never alone.

The story, with its marvelous illustrations, makes me think about friendship, and whether compromises are essential to human relationships. If so, are there compromises that demand too much of us? How would we know? Is Darius being asked to give up something that is too important to him for a friendship to require its absence? Is being a dragon essential to Darius' identity, and is spitting fire necessary for his well-being? I am putting this one on my list to try out with my fourth grade students!

Cosketch - online virtual white board you can share with others

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Cosketch is an online, virtual, free white board that you can share with others. It is very easy to use and there is no registration required. There is even a bookmarklet available to allow you to insert your drawings into website forms.

To use Cosketch , you go to the site, click "start here" and it takes you to the work page. The web address is unique to that sketch and you share that with whomever you want to see the sketch.

Then, you start drawing. There are lines, curves, circles, rectangles, text and multiple colors.

This is great for teachers working online with students, students collaborating on work, and even professional development.

Free Resources from McDougal Littell - lots of great stuff for all teachers

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McDougal Littell, a school textbook publisher, has some great resources available for teachers and students in many different areas. I'm going to focus on the science resources, but you can check out other subjects from this site too.

The starting site, is Class Zone. From here, you select the subject (Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, World Languages), grade level (middle vs. high school) and your state. You can pick any state and you will get some different sites based on what state you pick. These resources are free. There are some resources, like a teacher center and online textbook, that are password protected.

From there, you are brought to a list of textbooks. Click on the one that has your topic, and you will be brought to a site with a huge number of resources.

For example, selecting "science" and "high school" and "CT" gets you a selection for Biology, Chemistry, and Earth Science.

Under Biology, there are a huge variety of resources. Animations that explain difficult concepts, virtual labs, virtual dissections, Interactive review with a variety of activities, quizzes, webquests, and links to other resources.

Each subject area has different resources, but all of them are excellent. Check it out for your subject.

(PS - this blog post was completely created, including links and screen grabs, on my Google CR-48, proving that Chrome OS (and other OS's like HP webOS) are very useful and powerful.)

International Year of Chemistry - great resources for Chemistry

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2011 is the International Year of Chemistry and the official site, Chemistry2011, has some great resources for chemistry teachers.

The site has information, resources, and links about chemistry, achievements and research in chemistry, and other great resources for educators to use.

This is a great resource for teachers to find news articles and other resources to get students excited about chemistry and show how important it is to the world.

Springpad - free notes and organizer software - very cool

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I'm a huge fan of Evernote. I use it to take notes, clip web articles and get organized.

I recently found out about Springpad, which is similar to Evernote, but with some differences. Springpad is free, and is available via web app and for iPhone, iPad, and Android.

Springpad allows you to create and organize tasks in a different way than Evernote, and organizes your notes differently. You can take notes, clip web sites, create task lists, and more, just like in Evernote, but you can also import data from a bar code, search by location, and add photos. You can organize things by notebooks and tags like in Evernote, but Springpad also has "The Board" which is a digital cork board to help you organize the important things.

Springpad also lets you post from it to Facebook, Twitter and email to share your data and notes and you can even set reminders and alerts for notes you've taken.

Springpad is easy to set up and use and I see it as a worthwhile competitor or companion to Evernote. It is a great tool for students and teachers to take notes, organize information, and get themselves organized and efficient.

hip2b2 - Hip to be Squared - spur curiosity

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hip2b2 (hip to be squared) is a new website with an interesting purpose. The site is designed with activities and information to help teach students critical thinking, problem solving and to get them to love learning. The site wants students to get a curiosity in math and science in every day life.

Some of the articles include optical illusions, the chemistry of love, how to avoid red eye in photos (and what causes it), future devices and inventions, and much more. Everything is geared towards making science and math fun.

The site has activities and links that show students that those subjects typically thought of as "hard" can be fun and are also very important in life. There is the website, a magazine, and a TV show with engaging and fun activities and information.

I found a lot of great information and resources that I will be using with my physics students. I highly recommend that all teachers take a look at this site. There are some great things here.

Doodle 4 Google Contest for students

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Doodle 4 Google

Doodle 4 Google is a contest, open to children in grades K-12, where students use their artistic talents to create a new homepage logo for Google. The theme is "What I'd like to do someday..." and asks students to be creative and imaginative about that topic. The grand prize is a $15,000 college scholarship and $25,000 technology grant for their school and there are other prizes as well. 

Registration closes at 11:59pm Pacific Time on March 2, 2011. Entries must be postmarked by March 16, 2011. The wining Doodle will be featured on Google.com on May 20, 2011.

More information, registration, rules, and more are available on the Doodle 4 Google web site

This is a great opportunity for students to show their creativity and artistic talent and have a chance at getting money for college. 

5 Free Must-Have iPhone Apps for Students - guest post

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The smartphone era has seen the rise of many a coder with the entrepreneurial spirit – what with the popularity of these devices, writing apps for them is now a lucrative and much-sought-after career. Considering the fact that the iPhone is one of the most happening gadgets today and that most students own one, it makes sense that many of these apps are geared towards improving the academic and social lives of college-goers. Some of them cost a few dollars, but most are free, and of these, here are a few that find place in the must-have list:
  • BigWords: Every college student has spent some time searching for text books at rates that don’t bite their wallets. With BigWords, you can compare prices of textbooks from various sources - use this app to check where books are cheapest and if it’s worth waiting for a book you order online to be delivered or buying it at a local store – it’s a trade-off between the time and the cost, and you can make an informed decision based on all the choices available.

  • GMAT Practice Quiz: This is one app that serious students are going to love, especially if they’re looking to do something useful when they’re waiting for someone or on the go. It allows you to take practice quizzes and see how well you know your GMAT material; based on this, you can step up your preparation for admission to grad school, or just check how good you are and take pride in your knowledge.

  • Evernote: Taking notes in class just got easier with Evernote – you no longer need pens and notebooks or even to carry around your heavy laptop. Just tap your notes into your iPhone, create lists of all that you need to do and remember, and even share your documents with your classmates. Evernote syncs seamless with Windows or Mac, and can be linked to all the devices you use so studying becomes easier. It also integrates with Twitter and allows you to search text within photographs.  

  • Wikipedia: If you’ve used Wikipedia on your computer, you know how informative it is when you’re searching for quick facts about anything under the sun. While it’s not the most authoritative source for accurate information, it beats having to rush to the library to look up information on any random topic or even having to browse the web and sift through various sites to find what you’re looking for.

  • Dictionary.Com: College students are not really aces when it comes to spelling and grammar, so with this nifty app, it’s easy to check up on spellings and find the meanings of words when writing essays or preparing for exams. It’s easier than lugging around a huge dictionary or going online to find meanings and spellings.  

The best apps for college students are those that help them focus on their lessons, enhance their learning experience, prevent them from wasting time, and allow them to manage their time and money more efficiently. 

This guest post is contributed by Cathy Thomas, she writes on the topic of online computer technician training . She welcomes your comments at her email id: cathy83.thomas<@>gmail<.>com.

Why do schools still pay so much for software? Free alternatives to paid software and services.

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In this day and age of shrinking school budgets, I still don't understand why schools pay so much for software and services. I use all free services and software for my own use and with my classes and students. I think that schools should look at these free alternatives and seriously consider them. The old arguments of support and IT infrastructure no longer hold since many of these services have their own support and are hosted off site.

Here are some of my suggestions for alternatives to paid services:

1. Operating System - Windows vs. free. Windows licences are expensive. But Windows is entrenched and many IT departments, as well as users, are comfortable using them. However, there are great alternatives. Linux is the first alternative. Linux exits in many different forms and distributions, but the one I have used and find easy to use, is Ubuntu. It is easy to install, use, support and has free software that matches all of the Windows software. There are other alternatives coming soon also. Google Chrome OS and HP webOS are coming to netbooks, laptops and tablets and will be nice alternatives.

2. Email - Microsoft Exchange and Outlook are expensive. Gmail is free. I am a Gmail user so I'll focus on that, even though there are other free email systems out there. Gmail offers easy, free email systems. Gmail has integrated tasks, is accessible anywhere, and integrates nicely with other Google products. Once you have a Gmail account, you also have access to the rest of Google's apps, which I'll talk more about below.

3. Calendar - Microsoft Outlook and Exchange systems have built in calendars, but so do other systems. Google Calendar is free and works well with Gmail and can even by synced to many smartphone calendars.

4. Office Suite - Microsoft Office is expensive to license and use. I use two alternatives: OpenOffice / Libre Office and Google Docs.

OpenOffice and LibreOffice are very similar. LibreOffice was born from the same group that originally created OpenOffice. Both of them look like Office 2003 in terms of menus and icons. They work the same, but can also save and export files in a variety of formats, including MS Office and  PDF. I have used both at home and currently use LibreOffice. I have them set up to automatically load and convert MS Office documents and then save those documents as MS Office file formats so that they work at school where we use MS Office.

I also use Google Docs. This is another free service from Google. Google docs has word processing, presentations, spreadsheets, and drawing apps and everything is done online with no downloads required. The other nice feature is the ability to collaborate with others and work on the same document at the same time.

5. Web Site Hosting - many schools still pay for website hosting (and it's not cheap). Google Sites is a great, free alternative for teachers to use to create classroom and school websites. There is even a template for these types of sites to make it easier to create. Blogger also allows teachers to create free blogs to use with their classes and schools.

6. Graphics Software - I know of many schools that pay a fortune for Photoshop when there are some great, free alternatives out there. GIMP, Aviary, and Picasa are all different graphics editing software and apps that are free. All of them have different features and abilities, so check out each one and see which one best meets your needs.

7. Gradebook Software - Another area that schools spend money on is gradebook software. In some cases this makes sense because the gradebook integrates with their student information system. But, if a school is paying for a stand alone gradebook system, they should look to Engrade instead. Engrade is a web-based, free gradebook that is very powerful, full featured, and easy to use. I used it for many years until our school got a new SIS with an integrated gradebook. Students and parents can even have view access to see their grades at any time.

8. Graphing Calculators - I still see schools and students spending way over $100 for graphing calculators. The reason I hate seeing this is that many of these schools and students have computers and smartphones available and there are free and very inexpensive graphing calculator apps and software out there that they could use instead.

9. PDF Creation - for simple PDFs (and even some more complicated ones) you don't need to spend a lot of money on Acrobat. You can use OpenOffice, LibreOffice, and Google Docs to create your document and then save it as a PDF file. You can also use CutePDF to create PDF files from anything you can print, including web sites. CutePDF installs as a printer so you just select CutePDF instead of a real printer and it converts your print job into a PDF file.

10. Organizing and Notetaking - MS OneNote is great, but it costs money. Evernote is free and does some great things. Organize notes, clip websites, upload photos (and search text in the photo), share notes, and so much more. Access from any computer and any smartphone. Evernote is one of those apps I can't live without.

Google Apps for Education is a great way for schools to get a free, integrated set of tools. Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar, safety and security filtering and systems, Google Sites, Google Groups, Google Talk and much more.

Resources to find free alternatives and free software and apps:

Alternativeto - great site that allows users to plug in the current software they use and find alternative software titles. You can search by price/free also.

Education Technology Guy - lots of free resources here

Free Technology for Teachers - great site with lots of free resources for educators.

Twitter and your PLN - Twitter and Personal Learning Networks are a great way to find out about free resources from other educators.

Tech&Learning Magazine - free educational technology magazine with lots of great resources. Website also has great resources and articles.

THE Journal - another free educational technology magazine with great articles and resources.

What free apps, software, and alternatives do you use and recommend?

HP Announces three new webOS devices

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Yesterday, HP announced 3 new webOS devices. HP purchased Palm last year and has been working to release webOS, an excellent mobile operating system (IMHO) on new hardware. These three new devices are due out in the Spring.

Currently, there are 5 devices running webOS: Pre, Pixi, Pre+, Pixi+ and Pre 2. The new devices are a huge leap forward in hardware, and will be running webOS 2.0 or later.

The three new devices are:

Veer - mini smartphone - this smartphone, running webOS, is the size of a credit card. Early reviews show it is very usable and many people have said that smaller smartphones are needed.

Pre3 - The Pre3 takes webOS to new levels. 1.4GHz processor, improved version of webOS, larger screen and excellent hardware specs. It has a vertical slider keyboard, 5MP camera, front facing camera for video chat, and more. I have the Pre+ and absolutely love it. The Pre3 is even better and I can't wait to get one.

Touchpad - the first webOS tablet. It is beautiful looking, with some minor changes to the OS to make it work better on a tablet. Multitasking, inductive charging, Synergy, and so much more. This is going to be a great device for schools.

webOS is a pretty incredible mobile operating system. It has true multitasking with Card View, Synergy (all your data is backed up and pulled together from multiple sources onto your device), great apps, and is easy to work with. Notifications pop up on the bottom of the screen and do not interrupt what you are working on. webOS is great for individuals, education, and businesses.

The Touchstone charger that currently exists will work with the Veer and Pre3. A new Touchstone is available for the Touchpad also. The Touchstone is an inductive charger, meaning there is no plug to put into the phone. Simply sit the phone or tablet on the device and it starts charging. You can also program what you want the device to display when it is docked.

With the new devices, you will be able to easily work together with them. If your phone is docked, you can answer a call or text on the tablet. If you want to continue your work from one device to the other, you can simply tap the two devices together and they will transfer what you were working on.

webOS is a great operating system. Palm had problems with hardware and marketing, but HP has come out with incredible hardware and has the scope to really push webOS to the masses. HP also mentioned that webOS will be coming to printers, PCs and much more in the future.

For more information, details, reviews, and specs, visit the following sites:

1. http://www.precentral.net/ - the place to find out news, information and reviews on webOS products and software.

2. http://www.palm.com/us/ - HP/Palm's home site for webOS devices, apps and accessories.

3. http://h41112.www4.hp.com/promo/webos/us/en/index.html - HP webOS site

4. What HP/Palm Got Right (that Apple didn't)

Related Articles:

HP Buys Palm - What could that mean for education?

Educational Apps for Palm webOS

webOS vs. iPhone

Review of Palm Pre+ and Pixi+

Most used apps on my Palm Pre+ and what I use them for 

Top 10 Resources from Discovery Education - all free

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Dave's Top 10 Lists
Discovery Resources

The fourth top 10 list I'm doing is "My Top 10 Best Discovery Education Resources." Even though I talk about Discovery Education on this blog a lot, I wanted to consolidate the best Discovery Education has to offer. They are all free. They are in no specific order of preference. Click on the links for more information about each one and it's use in education.

Discovery Education is an excellent resource for teachers. Many teachers know about Discovery Streaming, the Discovery Channel, or even Discovery Middle School Science. All of these are fee based services, but Discovery Education also has some great free resources for any teacher. Here are my top 10 (out of the 25 or so they have that are free).

1. Web 2011 - http://web2011.discoveryeducation.com/ - Web 2.0 for 2011. Access great content on Internet Safety, Media Literacy and links to Web 2.0 Tool. The site is rich with little flash videos detailing the explanation and use of Web 2.0 Tools in the classroom. This is a great resource for new teachers and veterans to learn about Web 2.0 tools.

2. New Teacher Survival Central - http://discoveryeducation.com/survival/ - Includes Tech Tools for teachers and students, New teacher blogs, classroom tools, and curriculum resources, Tips/tricks on: Classroom Environment, Classroom Management, Parent Communication, Cool tips on Green Screens and more!

3. Science Fair Central - http://school.discoveryeducation.com/sciencefaircentral/?campaign=SFC - Great ideas how to create, launch and facilitate a Science Fair, including tips and ideas for student projects.

4. Discovery Education Lesson Plans - http://school.discoveryeducation.com/lessonplans/ - lesson plans for all different subjects, sorted by K-5, 6-8, and 9-12.

5. Siemens STEM Academy - http://stem.discoveryeducation.com/ - Premier online community designed to foster student achievement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math through the collaboration of STEM educators and sharing of best practices. Great resources, ideas, and more.

6. Kathy Schrock's guide for Educators - http://school.discoveryeducation.com/schrockguide/ - Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators is a categorized list of sites useful for enhancing curriculum and professional growth. It is updated often to include the best sites for teaching and learning.

7. Science of Everyday Life - http://scienceofeverydaylife.discoveryeducation.com/ - Everywhere you look, there are wonders both big and small just waiting to be explored. Your school, your home, and your community are all boundless laboratories full of mystery, excitement and surprise. Join us as we uncover the magic all around us and tap the innovator within us…in the Science of Everyday Life. What a great way to connect science to students' lives and experiences by connecting science to everyday things.

8. Discovery News - http://news.discovery.com/ - The site has news articles and resources on Earth, Space, Science, Tech, Animals, and much more. Like most Discovery products, it is well done and easy to find things. There is all kinds of breaking news, new discoveries, social issues, videos, discussions, and more.

9. Toyota Teen Driver - http://toyotateendriver.discoveryeducation.com/ - Discovery Education and Toyota have teamed up to create Toyota Teen Driver. This is a great resource for educators, parents, and students to learn about safe driving. Students can also play a virtual driving game called "Heads Up" to see how they perform and get a feel for driving and handling distractions. The game is not easy either and requires concentration.

10. Discovery Education Blog Network - http://blog.discoveryeducation.com/ -  great resource for all educators. STAR Educators and DEN Leadership Council members, along with DE employees, post resources and information on the blogs. Some of it is DE resources, but many of it is other resources for educators. There are also announcements for local DEN events and much more.

Training resources for using Discovery Education resources:
Discovery Education Training Resources on Educational Technology Guy.

Discovery Educator Network Blog - http://blog.discoveryeducation.com/
Lots of resources, articles, how-to’s, links, and more.