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Learn Zillion: Learning without limits

What it is:  Today I learned about a resource called Learn Zillion in a Skype conversation with Sam Schillace, creator of Google Docs.  Learn Zillion has a tagline that resonates with me: Learning Without Limits.  This is why I love technology, it enables learning without limits.  One of the things I have dreamed about, is a world where the very best teachers around the world could be connected with the students that need them.  Learn Zillion does just that through asynchronous video lessons organized by the Common Core Standards.  Learn Zillion was started by E.L. Haynes public charter school who had a passion for sharing best practices across classrooms and to connect students with just the right lesson, at just the right time.  The site started small and grew along with the passion that every child should have access to incredible teachers and resources.  Learn Zillion is now a place where teachers can learn by “sitting in” on other teacher’s lessons, and students can get a playlist of lessons that meet their needs.  Pretty awesome! How to integrate Learn Zillion into the classroom: It has always bothered me that I only had access to the teachers I had access to.  Let me explain that a little: I had some really incredible teachers growing up; my first, third, and fifth grade teachers were beyond exceptional.  I think about them often and model my own teaching based on what they did.  I had an incredible creative writing teacher in high school.  I had an Algebra teacher who made me believe that I was a gifted math student (I’m average at best).  I also had years with so-so teachers, teachers who didn’t really inspire the best in me.  That is not to say that another student didn’t connect with them and remember them years later.  It always irked me that I didn’t get to pick ANY teacher in the world to be my teacher.  I knew that there were amazing teachers out there, why didn’t I get to learn from them?  Would my education have been different if I was matched up with the very best teachers in the world? Learn Zillion is the first step in this direction.  It may not be the rich experience you get from clicking with someone on a personal level AND learning from them, but does give students the ability to learn a concept in a new way from a teacher who may “click” with them educationally differently than you can.  Sometimes it is just a matter of being able to pause, rewind and repeat a concept at will that makes all the difference.  With class sizes that are growing out of control, the ability to work one on one with students is diminishing quickly.  Learn Zillion allows every child to enter their learning at the right level, it is available on demand (day or night), it utilized fantastic educators from around the world, and it helps teachers create custom playlists of learning for students.  Using this technology, students can get the extra support they need with foundational concepts. Learn Zillion would make a fantastic support center in the classroom.  Students can visit the center to find out where they are in their personal learning journey, watch videos and practice new skills and concepts.  Because the videos are based on Common Core Standards, your students will get extra support for the foundational skills that support additional learning. Learn Zillion is a nice resource in a “flipped” classroom where homework looks a lot more like preparation for practice that happens in the classroom.  Students can watch the preparation video at home and come to class prepared to practice and explore using the new knowledge.  The great thing about a flipped classroom is the ability to offer students support where and when they need it-in the practice and honing of skills. Tips: I’m impressed with the quality and organization of Learn Zillion.  Be sure to take some time to explore some lessons and dream up how you might use it with your students or even as a learning tool for yourself. Please leave a comment and share how you are using Learn Zillion in  your classroom!

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Podcast Summit

Posted by admin | Posted in Language Arts, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Spelling, Teacher Resources | Posted on 20-02-2008

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As promised I want to share some of the incredible uses of podcasting in the classroom that I heard at the Colorado Podcast Summit yesterday. One of the keynote speakers was ISTE Primary Teacher of the Year Carol Greig. Her Keynote entitled “Podcasting for the Struggling Reader” was truly inspiring. Carol teaches kindergarten in the Eugene School District in Oregon, here she started a podcasting program for her struggling readers called Reading Buddies. The Reading Buddies program uses several iPod shuffles that are loaded with reading lessons (created and recorded by Carol) that go home with the students. Carol said something that I think rings true with educators everywhere, “No one can teach my students as well as I can.” Reading Buddies allowed Carol to go home with her students every night using the iPod. The goal of the Reading Buddies program was to help struggling readers reach the benchmark. Carol loaded the iPods with reading lessons based on the individual child’s needs, this provided guided learning at home with and extended student learning. In the Reading Buddies packs Carol included vocabulary picture cards which she created, fluency cards, a book or two and the iPod Shuffle. A sample lesson might sound something like this: “Take out the green picture card. What picture do you see first? That’s right, a cat! Cat starts with the letter C. Cat, Cat. What is the next picture?” Carol pauses after a question so that the students have time to think and respond. The Reading Buddies program helps kids with vocabulary, fluency, alphabetic principal, rhyming, phoneme segmentation, and literature. The iPod “buddies” have been a huge success with 99% of students reaching the reading benchmark by the end of the year. Carol started getting calls from parents requesting that their student be a part of the Reading Buddy program, parents and other educators in the district started offering help to create the recordings for the Reading Buddies. At the end of the first year a parent called to thank her for the wonderful program and things it had done for her son, but she also benefited. After her son went to bed, the mother would listen to the reading buddy and follow along, she learned English by listening to her kindergarten son’s Reading Buddy! There are some good rules that were set up for the students who have reading buddies, each child was told that only the child who was given the Reading Buddy was allowed to use it, if a Buddy was lost or broken the students family was responsible for replacing it. It is a privelege that can be taken away if the Buddies were not cared for. They have never had to take a Buddy away or replace one that was lost or broken by a student. The future of the Reading Buddies program includes expansion to other grades, older students could have their anthologies or science text recorded on the Shuffle. The Reading Buddies program won the presidential award for reading and technology…it is easy to see why!

The new iPod Nano would be great to use as a reading buddy because students could have audio and visual presented. The Shuffles are nice because they are so affordable (the 1G just dropped to $49 yesterday!) I am hoping to get a Reading Buddy Program up and running at my school. I will keep you posted with any success stories or lessons learned!

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[…] and help students develop a love for story.  Books Should Be Free is a great way to start a Reading Buddies program at your school with some MP3 players or iPods that can go home with students loaded up with […]

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