Friday, August 5, 2011

EduBlog Review 05


Final review on a blog called Making Teachers Nerdy that is written by Mrs. Smoke, and it’s a pretty hefty one when it comes to teacher technology resources. Mrs. Smoke is Dyane Smokorowski, a Technology Instructional Coach and Integrationist for the Andover Schools and an Intel US Senior Trainer. She has written many blog entries that relate to a lot of the material we’ve been covering in the past weeks. Blogs dealing with digital storytelling and Google search tips are full of information and loaded with links to other helpful sites.
What I like best about this blog is the amount of detail that goes into each provided link or the way they are organized. For example, there is one entry that recommends other blog sites that teachers should be reading - http://mrssmoke.onsugar.com/Educational-Blogs-You-Should-Investigating-2787268. Rather than just posting the links to the recommended blogs, Mrs. Smoke has actually broken them all down into different categories. Headings such as: Technology Integration, Elementary General, Arts, Librarians, and Industrial Technology make it very easy to focus on the blogs that relate to our subject matter. Elementary school related blogs are broken down by grade level, and there are even suggested blogs geared towards administrators. This blog entry is a terrific example of how her links are organized.
A great example of the detail that goes into her links can be seen in the blog post http://mrssmoke.onsugar.com/Action-Get-Cameras-Rolling-Digital-Storytelling-3307628. Here is an example of how she describes what she enjoys about the linked site:
Flickschool – One of the best keynotes I have ever heard was Marco Antonio Torres and how he has developed an outstanding video production classroom. His blog provides tutorials and tips over iMovie, storyboarding, great camera angles, and more.  Be sure to add it to your blogroll.
Besides the descriptor for each link, she also has them categorized into headings like: What is Digital Storytelling, Tips to Get Started, and Storyboards. The detail is incredibly helpful for teachers that are exploring the use of new technology in their classes. Another blog entry that is similarly detailed is http://mrssmoke.onsugar.com/45-Websites-Students-Create-Original-Artwork-Online-3442983. The comments that follow the post with accolades to Mrs. Smoke make me believe that she is doing a wonderful job with her blog entries.
Now I noticed that the last blog entry was written just before the 2010/2011 school year so it’s almost a year that there have been no new updates. Nevertheless, what makes this blog strong is that the links are solid resources and most of the ones I’ve followed are still active and current. If you are interested in getting more advice from Mrs. Smoke, you can follow @Mrs_Smoke on Twitter and http://twitter.com/#!/Mrs_Smoke for more useful links.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

EduBlog Review 04


Just found a great blog called Free Technology for Teachers written by Richard Byrne, a U.S. History and Civics teacher in Maine. As the title states, this blog is updated regularly with free resources for teachers incorporating technology into the classroom. This blog has won numerous EduBlog awards since 2008 for being a highly rated resource sharing blog.
Right away you notice some headings that quickly provide technology tools for you when follow the link. The heading Free Downloads immediately takes you to eight guides that were created for professional development workshops and each one can either be downloaded or viewed online. The guide that drew my attention the most was the last one titled “Making Videos on the Web - Make videos without purchasing software or video equipment”. This guide contains tutorials on sound editors, Animoto Video, and JayCut Video, all free digital resources.
The Google Tutorials link gives lessons on using a variety of Google tools such as Google Maps, Google Earth, and SketchUp to name a few. For Google Earth there are tips to embed video, as well as how to record a guided tour.
The links to Favorite Resources, Creating Blogs and Websites, and Video Creation Resources are self explanatory but thorough in their explanations to using the technology properly and creatively. The Favorite Resources link alone contains some amazing links that are ridiculously full of useful information. There are free eBooks for teachers and parents with information on internet safety, digital storytelling, and an eBook for art teachers titled Creative Exercises for Artists and Everyone Else.
Free Technology for Teachers is a link you must have if you ever plan to introduce the use of new technology in the class. With over 4000 blog entries archived back to 2007, this blog is bound to have useful information for teachers of any grade level or subject area.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

EduBlog Review 03

The most recent blog of interest I came across was from a website called mininggems.org. From their website, they provide a link to their blog - http://marksalata.blogspot.com/ - that contains free resources and inspiring videos, updated daily. They describe themselves as...
“...an established international educational consultancy based in San Diego, CA committed to providing the best in services and resources in order to transform human relations to be positive, creative, and collaborative by mining the gems within. With this vision, our mission is to partner with all stakeholders and companies to provide professional development, seminars, and products to engage the mind, elicit hidden human resources, and empower individuals to transform their world for the better.”
Now I have to admit, I found this blog in a bit of a backwards fashion. I was searching for blogs that contained any information about Sir Ken Robinson who has authored books and given talks on the value of creativity in education. What I ended up finding was a blog that featured several people who believe the education system, as it exists today, is not performing as creatively as it should. This coincides well with this course, since we are trying to creatively incorporate the use of new technology in the classroom.
Several of the videos posted in this blog are from the Ted Talks series, and if you’re not familiar with TED.com, you should take some time to watch some of the amazing and inspiring people who are featured there. So, why not just review TED.com instead of this blog. I like that they’ve focussed the material here to revolve around education, and finding new ways to present the curriculum to our students. It is quite clich├ęd, but the thinking is outside the box.
The first blog entry that caught my eye, aside from the Sir Ken posting, was entitled “Failing, to Learn” and it was a video of Diana Laufenberg from TED Talks in November, 2010 - http://marksalata.blogspot.com/2011/03/failing-to-learn.html. She raises some interesting points about developing a lesson plan on the fly, and allowing the students to take ownership in the final result. The other point she raises is that much of the learning throughout our lives comes from making mistakes, and that failure is not an absolute negative. I’ve done this a few times with my students where we’ll take on a project that has a known end result (in-school drywall renovations, set design and construction for school plays), but we’ll take a few days in class to discuss the steps along the way and what we should all be responsible for. There is no set criterion for the project at the start of the semester (since the project did not exist then) so we create it as a group. It’s amazing to see how the students hold themselves accountable to each other in a setting like this.
Finally, the subject that brought me to this blog in the first place: Sir Ken Robinson -  http://marksalata.blogspot.com/2011/07/sir-ken-robinsons-top-three-talks.html. Please take the time to watch the three videos that are linked in the post. If you’ve not heard this man speak before, you will be enthralled with the thoughtful, understanding, and humorous way in which he speaks of today’s education system.
This blog is full of valuable resources and varied points of view on how teachers can effectively reach their students. Whether it is through discussing the merits of digital books vs. text books, or in properly developing a student’s listening skills, the resources here can provide valuable information to enhance the classroom experience.