Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why we teach...

The seed of who I am today was planted about 23 years ago. On September 7, 1988 I was on top of the world, ready to start my life as a fifth grader with who I thought was going to be the best teacher in the world. I nearly pissed myself with excitement when I found out at the end of fourth grade that Mr. Lansing was going to be my teacher. I remember practically bribing my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Towne to put me in his class. My brothers and sisters all had him and I was sure it was my destiny to be in his class.
September 8th, 1988; the rug was pulled out from under me. Oh sure, he was funny and made things interesting but who wants a teacher that has expectations for you. He gave us homework and made us think. How dare he. September dragged into October, through November and then December. I remember my parents coming home from conferences in early December and expressing their disappointment that I was not doing my homework or, as Mr Lansing told them, living up to my potential. What potential? I sure didn't feel like I had any potential. I knew that I would just be a warehouse worker like my brother or work some other menial job like my parents. They told me that he expected great things from me. GREAT THINGS? Whatever, whats my punishment?
In January, Mr Lansing started keeping me after school for not doing my homework. I really didn't care much because I always walked home though the alleys to an empty house and just sat in front of the TV eating Doritos and drinking Coke. At least here there was other people around. While I was doing my work, he would talk to me about dreaming of possibilities and how smart I was. I knew I didn't feel smart but little by little he gave me confidence and the encouragement soaked in. He never gave up on me and taught me to never give up on myself.
It has been a long road to get where I am now. There are lots of people who helped shape who I am. I have many memories of my teachers, some good and some bad. I remember things that happened in class and consequences for my actions. I never did get any better about doing my homework but I did get better at how I feel about myself. Mr. Lansing helped me be a little bit better of a student but most of all he made me feel like a better person.
Most of you in education can relate to my story. There was probably a teacher at some point in your life that touched your life in some way. Many of us went into education because we wanted to pay it forward and be a positive influence in children's lives. As we go through the daily grind of teaching; testing, data, testing, data, behaviors, testing, data, etc....remember, you came to teaching because you felt a deeper purpose. To accomplish something as profound as changing a life, you need patience, understanding, and the understanding that you may never actually see the fruits of your labor. Take with you the small victories and keep your head high. All you can do is plant the seed.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Virtual Book Clubs...part 2

On to part two of our discussion about changing the way we talk about books.  So you may wondering how you can easily start and maintain a virtual book club that will benefit students.  There are many ways that I can conceive to go about this and two that I have actually tested.

If you maintain a google site, adding a page of announcements creates what amounts to a blog.  You can post questions or opinions about the book you are sharing.  Your groups members can comment on those posts to add to the discussion.  The issue with this for me in the past was giving permission for those in your group to edit the page.  Recent changes in Sites now allows owners to give permission to individual pages and not an entire site.  I have yet to test this new format and therefore do not recommend going this route for most individuals.

Google groups however is a great way to maintain a secure location. Groups can be set up and users added and deleted very easily.  Any member of the group can post and comment.  The best part is that you can have notifications sent to your e-mail letting you know when anybody makes a post or comment.  Several staff members in my building used groups last year for reading response.  They all found it easy and a good way to make more connections with their students.  It does not take long to get  a group set up and students connect with it very easily.  If your students can check and respond to an e-mail, then they can use groups.  Within my district, an e-mail to the help desk is all that is needed to get a group started.  The IT team will set up the group and I can give you a brief over view in person how to do the moderation.  If enough interest is generated, we could even set up a short after school session to get going as a team.

I realize that we are all stressed and overwhelmed.  This is really a small thing that can make a big difference.  We as educators need to connect to our students in as many ways and as often as we can.  No longer can we afford to make excuses.  We became teachers to change and improve lives.  Can you spare five minutes in the evening to enrich the lives of a few kids?

In the words of the late, legendary Steve Jobs, "THINK DIFFERENT."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Virtual Book Clubs

So I guess I better start by making my basic opinions clear before moving on.  I firmly believe that the concept of guided reading is sound and beneficial to students as a whole.  It is very good at giving students the small group interaction and on point instruction that they need to become good at reading.  Also the opinions expressed are mostly directed to those teaching reading in upper levels and not those teaching beginning readers.  That being said, what I believe guided reading is not good at is making students good at thinking about books.  The point of guided reading is to meet students at their level and teach them the skills they need to move up to the next level.  What is lacking is meaningful discussion about books.  Some will disagree and say it depends on how you approach the discussions during your group time.  Lets be real, it is like pulling teeth trying to have a deep meaningful discussion about a book that is 8 pages long.  There simply is not enough meat in it to go much further than the prescribed skill for that particular lesson.  Reading groups, as a stand alone, kill the love of reading.  Those that love reading love it for the way it makes them feel and the invigorating discussions that can come from a shared experience.

"Okay LaBarge, get off that horse and show us what you are getting at!"

Another reality facing teachers is that there is not enough time in a school day to do all of the things that we would like to do.  A fun, relaxing literature circle is just not in the schedule.  How can we offer students the chance to interact about literature outside the regular schedule?  We need to meet them where they spend there lives...the internet.  A virtual book club can give students a chance to read real books that are at there level, and teachers a chance to pose real questions and have real discussions about how books tie into our lives and the world.  The beauty is that you don't even have to run the group.  Anybody who shares an interest in reading can share the experience of a good book.  Invite your administrator to run a group.  Get the nurse to join in.  Instead of running a group in your class, partner up with another grade or even another school.

Tomorrow I will lay out how to get this up and running.  It is actually easier than it sounds.  In the mean time, pick out some good books you want to share and think big.

We can change the world...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Welcome back to the school year!

As you have probably noticed, I took the summer off of blogging to focus my attention on my two children.  It was fun being able to see my son grow from a baby to a toddler, and my daughter from a toddler to a little girl.  Now it is back to work trying to get through another year and make it as successful as possible.  I am having loads of fun with my new STEM curriculum and the students seem to be soaking it up as well.

Look for my first posts on educational technology for the school year next week. Have a great year!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Easy Science Experiments

As I prepare to become a STEM teacher within my building I have been searching for resources and materials to set up my lab.  One of the first items I dusted off was a collection of books that I had nearly forgotten about.  They are written by Janice VanCleave and they are full of easy experiments and demonstrations to support practically any science lesson.  As I searched for titles that I did not have, I found  her website, which is filled with lessons from her books.  As you reflect on the past year, think of ways you could use simple experiments and demonstrations to introduce science topics.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Going Out on a Limb

I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest something.  It has a lot to do with broadening our skills, branching out so to speak.  I am not suggesting we leaf behind all we know about what works, but it does get to the root of what motivates students.  I am referring to STEM.
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  These four areas are considered the key to being a competitive nation in a global economy.  President Obama announced in 2009 an initiative to promote STEM learning.  NYS, as well as many other states, have STEM education collaboratives which work to partner schools with businesses that have a stake in producing well-educated students.  By 2016, the 10 fastest growing careers in NYS will require competencies in STEM.
Within the last few weeks I was informed that I would be no longer teaching as a generalist and would instead be specialized in math and science.  At first I was disappointed with this move but as the saying goes, I am making lemonade.  I grew up with, and still have a love for science and engineering.  Now it's time for me to share that love with others.  My plan is to set up my classroom as a STEM lab and show the students how to explore the world around them with a scientific eye.  In the coming weeks and over the summer you will be seeing the resources on STEM that I am digging up.  Hopefully you will give some of the ideas a try as well.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What is the Cloud?

     No, this is not a science lesson on the formation of clouds. This is  a quick vocabulary lesson on a term that many believe will be a dominant force in the years to come.  In fact, according to the New Media Consortium it is one of six technologies that will change education.
     The term cloud computing refers to using the internet and internet based sites to perform computing tasks. An example you are already familiar with is Google Docs.  As opposed to using a programs like MS Word or Pages, you use Google Docs to do your word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations.  The benefits are easy to see; access to your documents from any computer and the ability to easily share and collaborate with others. 
     Think about the way you use your computer each day.  How much time are you spending doing tasks using your internet browser compared to programs in your hard drive?  Many of the programs that you typically install on your computer are now available in a web-based version.  Even computers are moving towards a more interent centered set-up.  Best Buy and Amazon will soon be selling computers with Google's Chrome OS.  These computers, called Chromebooks, will do nothing but access the internet.  Interesting idea, isn't it?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Back That Thang Up.

It's 8:45, you are in your classroom getting ready to print the report cards you worked on all night.  You pop in your flash drive, go to open the files and...wait a second, where did they go?  They were there last night.  I could have sworn I saved it to the drive, or did I?  Now what am I going to do?  They are due today!?

Has this ever happened to you?  
Are your afraid of this happening?  
Want to prevent this from happening?

     There are a few ways you can have better access to your documents while keeping them secure.  While there are many services available, I am mentioning two that are easy to integrate here at C-D.
     The first is Google Docs.  Google Docs allows you to upload files and folders and maintain their original file format.  It is not the easiest because you still have to upload from one computer and then download to another.  If you are uploading single document you can drag it from your documents folder and drop it into your Google documents list.  It does give you way to access important documents that you use occasionally.  I use this as a way to back-up (actually a 3rd back-up) of infrequently used files and high priority files.
      A more seamless solution to save your documents is to set up a Dropbox account.  Dropbox is pre-installed on our C-D accounts but does require you to create a free account.  It is easy to set-up once you do you can save your files directly to your Dropbox folder.  At home you download Dropbox to your own computer to access your files.  After the initial set-up, Dropbox is fairly seamless.  If you save a file to your Dropbox at school it is instantly available on your home computer.  Your basic Dropbox account gives you 2GB of storage free.  Clicking the link below will take to to the sign-up screen and give us both an extra 250MB.
     If you need help with either of these, please let me know.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What's Up With That?

 The following post is a cross post with one of my favorite blogs, Free Tech 4 Teachers, where I was invited to share my thoughts about technology.  

    An amazing thing happens when the school bell rings in the morning.  Teachers in my school, and all over the country, turn down the ringers on their iPhones, log out of their e-mail, minimize the website they were viewing, and otherwise completely remove themselves from all electronics.  At the same time students are stuffing mp3 players, iPod Touches, and cell phones in their pockets and book bags in fear of confiscation.  It's interesting how we are all using technology in our lives with relative ease but when it comes to the classroom there is a disconnect. (Pun Intended)
     Schools are spending millions every year on SMART/Promethean boards, projectors, laptops, iPads, and desktops.  We spend countless hours in tech trainings to learn new programs and tools.  What I have found in my school is that the programs and equipment are often underutilized.  As my building technology representative, I have made it my mission to help as many as I can find ways to use technology more and more effectively.  Throughout the year I have offered suggestions and made myself an example in hope that others would follow.  I have hosted workshops and given direct instruction.  Now that we approach the end of the year, it is time to reflect on my progress.  How is it going?  In the words of my students; epic fail.  Many excuses have been offered; "I don't have time, I don't get tech stuff, the kids will take too long to learn it, I don't have time to learn it."  What's up with that?  Technology surrounds our lives, except in school?  Now what?
     I have a proposal based on two assumptions.  I assume that if you are reading this blog you have background integrating technology and that you have at least some interest in helping others use technology in their classrooms.  My proposal?  I have a started a Google Doc where we can all collaborate and share ways to help our peers gain knowledge and confidence using technology.  It is my hope that you will see something that will inspire you to keep pushing for everyone to try and use technology to enhance their teaching.

Chris LaBarge is currently a fifth grade teacher and frontline technology assistant at a rural elementary school in Greene County, New York.  His blog, Tech Talk with Mr. LaBarge, is an attempt to inspire teachers in his district to try something new and expand their horizons.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Where Do You Stand in the World?

I took a sign language course in college.  The adjunct walked in the first day and began signing to us.  We could tell he was trying to tell us something.  He used facial expressions and gestures that clued us in, but ultimately we were all lost.  Sure, we all picked up a few things that he kept "saying" but it was very difficult to piece it all together.  I sat imagining what it would be like to live in a place where nobody spoke the same language as I did.  Imagine how hard it would be to get anything done if your entire life was spent trying to understand the culture and language of everyone around you.  A lonely immigrant in a foreign land.  Now imagine you, the immigrant, is in charge of teaching the natives.  Do you try to teach all of them using your language and cultural beliefs or do attempt to assimilate to theirs?

What if I told you this is what you do every day?

In 2001, Marc Prensky wrote an article titled, "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants".  In this article Prensky declares that our students are have changed radically and that our education system is not designed to properly meet their needs.  He coined phrases to describe students and the teachers that are attempting to teach them; digital natives and digital immigrants.  While his opinions about instructional methods are debated, his description of the players has stuck.

Digital natives are people who have grown up in the digital age.  They are confident using technology because they have grown up with it around them.  They communicate, collaborate, and assimilate information using technology.
Digital immigrants are individuals that were born before computers and the web became prevalent.  This group is by no means uncomfortable using technology and can adapt to new trends with only minimal difficulty.
Since these terms were introduced, new terms were coined to describe individuals that refuse or are unable to adapt to the changing world.  They feel that things have always worked the way we have always done them.  They feel that technology is for play and not serious work.  This group has been called many names; digital refugees, digital aliens, digital dinosaurs.

Where do you stand?

Very few of us could technically be considered true digital natives, therefore you are either an immigrant or a dinosaur.  What do you want to be?  How hard are you willing to work to connect with your students?  What is holding you back?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My little 21st Century Learner

My wife Heather and I have a word in our house that we no longer speak aloud.  It brings a choked up, lump in the throat, kind of dread.  The word symbolizes a cross road that every young parent faces when their child starts approaching a certain age.  Even though our daughter is only four we can see an underlying maturity that lets us know she is almost ready.  If you haven't figured it out yet, I am talking about Kindergarten.  My daughter is very excited about going on the big yellow bus and going to school with her friends and in many ways we are excited for her.
Most people think that because both Heather and I are both teachers that my daughters existence has consisted of daily lessons and flash cards.  In truth she has had neither.  Like most educators, we know that the best thing we could do for our little one is let her play and expose her to as much of the world as we can.  It helps that she is immensely curious about everything and is constantly asking about everything she sees.  While Olivia has always shown interest in books and reading, the past few months have been an explosion of progress for her.  I am encouraging this progress with two pieces of technology; my iPod and her iXL.
We have let Olivia use the computer since she was about 2 years old.  She loves going to,, and and playing the games they have available.  Last November I purchased my iPod Touch and Olivia immediately took notice.  She wanted to give it a try, so I downloaded a simple drawing app so she could get the idea of a touch screen.  Well needless to say she took to it like it was written in her DNA.  I downloaded a free book app called, Read Me Stories, that reads books aloud to her.  Seeing how much she enjoyed using the iPod, we looked into getting her something similar, but more age appropriate.  What we found was the iXL by Fisher-Price.  This little game player is designed for children ages 3-7 and is similar to a Nintendo DS.  There are stories, handwriting practice, games, and drawing apps.
Technology is not a complete answer to educating children.  A computer will never replace the personal interactions that develop a thoughtful, well-rounded learner.  Technology is a bridge that can span the divide between you and children who need a variety of means to learn and express comprehension.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Be a Better Searcher

Searching for information on the internet can, at times, be a mind numbing process.  With the wrong search terms you can end up with page upon page of irrelevant information.  Did you know that there are some simple tricks that you can use to make your search results better?
Being a better searcher just means understanding what words will work and why.  Google has a help page that gives an brief overview of what can make your search results more relevant.
Google also has posters, in PDF form, that have ways you can modify your search to get better results.  The posters are located in the Google Educator Area under the classroom posters link.  I have one of the posters next to my computer for quick reference.  It wouldn't hurt to have one posted in your room for students to reference.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Writing Prompts

For years, decades for some ; ), we have given students writing prompts.  We have tried many ways to make it fun and inviting; pictures, lists, charts, spinners, and so on.  What else could we do?  My ah-ha moment came as I was reading a blog post, you read those right?  The blogger was admitting an addiction to watching online videos and found one that he felt was worthy of sharing (here if your curious).  He posed the idea that this video could be used in many educational ways but one made me say, "duh, why didn't I think of that?"  He mentioned the idea that this video would make a good writing prompt.  Wait a minute, a video as a writing prompt?  Blows your mind, right?
There are literally millions of short videos available on the internet, why not use one to engage your students and get their minds working.  There are many video services available besides and I have listed just a few below.  If you have others to share, please leave a comment with a link for all.

PS - If you still like good ol' fashioned writing prompts, have your kids pick a number from 1-346 and go here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What a wonderful world...virtually.

When I was growing up I was taught at an early age to look both ways before I cross the street, to not talk to strangers, and to be careful of the mean dog down the street.  As kids we were taught lots of lessons to keep us safe and out of harms reach.  Most of the time the dangers were obvious and easy to recognize.  Today I am raising my own children in a new world with dangers that are hard to see coming.  I am not talking earth, I am talking the massively expanding virtual world.

The internet has done so much to both expand our world and at the same time make our world smaller.  It is easy for anyone with an internet connection to find information about practically anything and anyone they want.  It is important to educate both ourselves and our students about using the internet safely.
Back in January, one of my favorite blogs posted links and overviews of some great resources to teach ourselves and students about using the internet.  I encourage you to check them out and find one that fits your style. The videos on the bottom of the post are particularly clear and informative.

Free Technology for Teachers: 11 Resources for Teaching & Learning Web Safety

I personally will be requiring my students in September to use one of these resources before we continue with our projects.  

Monday, May 9, 2011

Google Forms

Part of Google Docs is the ability to create web forms.  The forms can be used to create surveys, polls, gather information, and even give tests and quizzes.  The information submitted is automatically transfered into a spreadsheet.  You can also create a spreadsheet and have it converted into a form.
The forms are very easy to create and share.  The forms can be e-mailed, embedded in a webpage, or a link can be shared to the live form.  Below is video showing you how to create a quiz using forms.

One very easy way to use forms in the primary classroom is to record your milk counts.  Students go to a computer kiosk in your room and click which milk option they would prefer.  The results are automatically placed in a spreadsheet and can be tabulated using a simple sum equation.  You may be wondering how this helps your students.  It teaches your students that the computer can be used for a variety of purposes, not just games, and the results can be used as a math lesson.  Forms has a great feature that will show you the responses in a graph so that you can show students how the data looks in graphic form.  Try making a form and see how easy it is.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Copyright Free Pictures

Google image search is a great resource for finding pictures and images.  Did you know that it is not necessarily legal to use those images in your work?  Copyright laws extend to the internet and any image found on a website is the same as any found in a textbook.  While some leeway is granted for educational purposes, its better to be safe.  A great website for free photos that can be used by teachers and students is Pics4Learning.  There own description describes it best, "Pics4Learning is a copyright-friendly image library for teachers and students. The Pics4Learning collection consists of thousands of images that have been donated by students, teachers, and amateur photographers. Unlike many Internet sites, permission has been granted for teachers and students to use all of the images donated to the Pics4Learning collection."
It is important to teach our students early that they need to think about where they get their resources and doing it legally.  Teach by example and be conscious of your image choices.
If you are looking for clipart for worksheets and other printables, check out This site offers easy to find clipart sorted by categories.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I can only imagine the response to Monday's post to my blog.

Teacher 1 - "Who is he kidding?  I don't read blogs.  I don't even read this one, it just gets sent to my e-mail three times a week."

Teacher 2 - "What is this blog thing you speak of?"

Teacher 3 - "Great, another e-mail from LaBarge, [DELETE]"

Let's start by defining a blog.  The word blog is a blend of the words web and log and is define as, "a web site containing a writer's or group of writers' own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other Web sites."  Blogs are great places to learn about the world through the eyes of those experiencing it.  So often we get information that is so mass produced and edited that we are missing the heart of the information.  Especially as teachers, it is great to hear the thoughts of those that are in the trenches with us.  While the main purpose of this blog is to give you information on educational technology there are millions of blogs on everything from basket weaving to advanced photon analysis.  No matter your passion there is a blog for you and it is a great way to stay on top of current thoughts and theories.
Speaking strictly on education, blogs provide you window into classrooms around the world.  By reading teacher blogs, you can see what other teachers are trying and experiencing with their own classes.  As demands on us rise, we need to find ways to stay ahead of the curve and to think creatively.  By keeping in touch with what is happening in our profession, we can avoid the pitfalls that others have experienced and stride ahead of expectations.
How to find good teacher blogs.

The place I would start to look for good blogs written by teachers, for teachers is
This site gives awards to top blogs in education.  They also have a directory that lists the best blogs in education divided into categories.  Take a look and let us know what your favorite education blog is.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Reader for Blogs

Some of you have questioned when I have time to find all of this information about technology. With my classroom responsibilities, tech support, two young children, and a thriving business, time is precious. Most of the information I find about great websites and technology come from other blogs about educational technology. I found these blogs by doing a Google search. One good blog leads to another and eventually you have half a dozen blogs to keep on top of. Google makes a great tool to help you stay on top of all your blogs. The service is called Reader and it's like having my own digital magazine everyday on my computer. You add subscriptions from all of your favorite blogs, like mine, and it delivers new posts to Reader automatically. You can choose to mash all of your blogs together or divide them into categories. Give it try and be sure to add mine first. = )

Friday, April 29, 2011

Kerpoof Studio

Kerpoof is a free online resource specifically designed with students in mind.  The Kerpoof studio allows students to create pictures, drawings, storybooks, movies, and to practice spelling.  The site is very easy to use and students will get the knack of it fairly quickly.  The site includes lesson plan ideas to help you develop ways that you can use it with your students.  The activities are cross-referenced with current state standards as well as national technology standards.

Kerpoof is a great way to let students show their understanding in creative ways.  They can save work on the site or pictures can be downloaded as JPEG files.  Teachers can sign up for a free account where they can set up individual user accounts for their students.  If you use it in your classroom, let us know by leaving a comment.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy and Google

We are all familiar with Bloom's Taxonomy and its revised version.  On another blog, I found a chart that matches each cognitive area with Google tools and products.  As you can see from the image below, there are many tools that Google offers that you may not be experienced with.

Google/Bloom's Taxonomy (Kathy Schrock) / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Want to learn?

Google offers two great resources to help you learn about Google products and help you incorporate them into your curriculum.  The first is the Google Apps Education Community.  The community forum has discussions, video tutorials, and a newsletter to help you better understand how to use Google Apps in your classroom.  Need a lesson plan?  Google apps has lesson plans that use Google products for all grade levels.  You can narrow down the list by selecting grade levels, products, and subject.  Search around and see if there is something you can use and share it with us!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Class Website - Beyond the Wiki

Your wiki page has served its purpose for years.  You used it as a repository of links to games and important websites.  You have relied on it to be a constant for your students, a place to call home.  As we begin looking to next year and how we can improve ourselves as teachers, you may want to consider creating a classroom website.

I don't have time to be playing with a website!

There is no doubt that it will take time to learn the tools and develop an effective site.  I spent many hours looking at other teacher websites and deciding how to shape mine.  It took me several hours more to build it and revise it.  However, I feel it was a worthwhile investment and keeping it up to date takes only 20 minutes every Monday morning.  Our Google Sites is a very easy to use tool and serves the purpose very well.

What benefit is there to having a website?

In my search for good examples of teacher websites, I saw two common themes:

-An information portal for parents.  Most, if not all, of the websites I viewed had a good amount space dedicated to providing information to parents about what is going on in the classroom.  A decent website could replace your weekly/monthly newsletter.  It is also a great place to give parents information about what their child is learning.

-An information portal for students.  A website is a great way to provide students access to review materials, videos, and worksheets that can help them at home.  Students that need extra help at home would have a place to go for guidance.  They would also be able to access the same links from home that they used at school.

Where can I see some good examples?

Below are some links to great sites that I have found and that I am using to try and shape my website as it grows.

Mrs. Mark - Fifth Grade
Mrs. Dunn - Fourth Grade
Mrs. Pearce - Third Grade
Ms. Winston - Second Grade
Mrs. Zider - First Grade
Mrs. Borne - Kindergarten

Want help?  Just ask.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Online Math Instruction

Have you ever sat in a parent conference and had the discussion that goes something like this:

Teacher: Tommy has not been very consistent handing in his homework.

Parent: Tommy comes home and tries to do his homework, but he can never remember how to do it.

Teacher: Have you tried to sit and help him?

Parent: I try but I usually don't remember enough to help him out.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy provides free online instructional videos on a wide range of topics from basic addition to lattice multiplication to advanced calculus.  They also offer a free app for iPod, iPad, and Android devices.
The videos are simple and give a good overview of the topic with visual samples.  The videos could also be a great way for advanced students get a step ahead.  By creating an enrichment page on your website you could provide links to relevant video topics and worksheets to test their skills.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Online Collaboration

Collaboration is very popular in business and education. Everyday it seems there are new ways for students to collaborate online. Google Docs is a great way for students and teachers to share documents and collaborate. A new way to collaborate online are walls. Wall programs allow you create an online space for students to post ideas. Think of it like sticky notes on a white board. Many sites exist that have this feature but two of the easiest to use are Wallwisher and PrimaryWall.
Wallwisher is intended for a more sophisticated audience and may be better suited for upper elementary and secondary classrooms.  It has a more mature feel and is better suited for the more tech savvy teacher.
PrimaryWall is designed with teacher and classrooms in mind.  The themes are more kid friendly and they even have lesson plans and ideas to use it.
I have yet to use either of these programs in the classroom.  If you use either one, e-mail me and let me know what you did and how it went.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I stumbled upon this website while reading through another tech blog.  History Buff is a neat website for anyone teaching American history.  The two best features of the site are the narrated panoramic tours of fifteen historic sites and the newspaper archives.  The tours can be projected on the big screen and provide a quick field trip without leaving the classroom.  The newspapers give you a way to show students primary documents that date back as far as 1707.  The newspapers are sorted into eras and are very clear scans of the actual newspaper.  Check it out and let me know if you use it in your classroom.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Do you have Technophobia?

Does the thought of using technology in your classroom give you a headache? Stop. Take a breath. It doesn't have to be complicated. Technology is a great way to change up the routine and engage your students.  Make a goal to try something new every week, something small. Below is a list of some ideas that you can use this week that are simple to do:

-show a YouTube video to the class
-sign up for laptop cart and give the students time to play games.
-use a PowerPoint presentation to introduce a new topic.
-use Kidspiration to make a graphic organizer with the class
-let a student show you how to do something on the computer
-get the daily weather forecast online for morning meeting
-use Google Earth with your Flat Stanley project

Do you have a simple way to use technology? Post a comment to share with everyone.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Podcasting was one of the first new things I experimented with this school year. A podcast is a downloadable audio file and is usually part of a series. It is essentially an internet radio show that you download and bring with you. The educational benefit to doing podcasts is that it develops public speaking skills and fluency. It is also a great way for students to be able to share their thoughts and stories with the world.


My first project with the students was a simple book review.  The first student recorded their book review podcast using a program called GarageBand. GarageBand allows you to record and edit audio as well as insert loops of generic music and sound effects. It does have a bit of a learning curve to it and the files need to be converted out of GarageBand onto mp3 format. For subsequent recordings, I had the students record them using my iPod. Most of the students have their own and are very familiar with using them. From there I e-mailed them to myself. Once the files are created, they need to be uploaded and hosted on a podcasting service. The podcasting service stores the audio files and gives you links to the playable files. The company I use is because it offers the service free and it is fairly easy to use. The links to their finished podcasts are on the student portfolio page of my site and on the podcast page of their sites.
Most kids were fairly enthusiastic about this project and very excited to go home and share with family. For future projects, I plan on letting students decide what topic they want to cover and how to present it. I will guide them to think about doing interviews, performing plays, or even singing song.

This may sound like a lot but it was really fairly simple and really engaging for the students.  They were very excited to have an audience beyond the classroom and school.  Want to try it?  Let me know and I can get you started.

Friday, April 1, 2011


Voki is an online tool that allows you or your students to create speaking avatars.  These avatars can be posted on websites or sent via e-mail.  The characters clothing, backgrounds, and voices are easily customizable.  Their speech can be typed in or recorded using the computer microphone.  Voki is a great way to get your ESL or shy students to express themselves without the audience.  All students will enjoy creating an online image of themselves to show the world.  Teachers can use a Voki to draw students to the class website and to start conversations.  Put a Voki on your screen and they will listen.  Listen to the one I created below.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Word Processing...?

How far behind do you feel with technology?  Many students, at all grade levels, are very comfortable using any technology.  How many of you have been walking through a grocery store and seen the 3 year old in the shopping cart playing on mom's iPhone?  That same kid will be in kindergarten in 2 years.  Are you ready to engage them?  Technology is a lot more than typing, playing games, and watching videos.  There are amazing ways to communicate, create, & collaborate.  I found a video showing just one feature of Google Docs that quite few students know how to use.  Did you even know it existed?  Word processing...?  Way more, check it out.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Are you overwhelmed by computers?  
Do you want to integrate more technology into your lessons?  
Do you want fun and exciting ways to motivate your students?


The purpose of this blog is to give real simple ways to use technology in your classroom.  You will receive a new idea every week and it will be made simple enough that you can try it within days.  My hope is that you can use these techniques to enhance your lessons and excite your students.

What is technology integration?

Technology integration is just what it says.  Technology integrated into other subject areas.  We have been told over the years that we should be integrating subjects like science and social studies with writing and reading.  You can, and should, do the same thing with technology.

Should we have a technology teacher?

Technology teachers, in my opinion, are a throwback to when computers in schools were at its infancy.  Technology teachers were needed because they were the only ones who even knew how to turn a computer on let alone use them in some way.  Todays students are what are called digital natives.  A digital native is a person who was born into the modern computer world and has grown up using technology.  Most of your students are probably more comfortable using a computer than you are.
With budget cuts and reduced staffing, teachers need to learn to harness technology technology within their own classrooms.