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#NTchat & the history of iLearn Technology

Yesterday I was the guest moderator for #NTchat on Twitter.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, #NTchat is a chat held on Twitter.  The chat happens weekly on Wednesdays and is geared toward New Teachers.  To participate in the chat, anyone who wants to join in uses the hash tag #NTchat at the end of their tweet.  @teachingwthsoul asked me to talk about how new teachers could utilize iLearn Technology.  You can see the archive of the chat here.   As I started tweeting, I realized that many of my readers probably don’t know the history of iLearn Technology.  For those of you who are interested, this is how it all started… Out of college, I taught in a second grade classroom.  As a new teacher I had very few resources (no file cabinets full of lesson plans and activity ideas), very few learning games, few books in my classroom library, and as a newly wed out of college, very few funds with which to purchase said items.  I was also frustrated, it wasn’t fair for students in my classroom to have fewer resources available to them just because I was a new teacher.  In college, I stumbled upon abc Teach and Teach-nology.  That first year of teaching, I frequented both sites regularly for printables, games, and lesson ideas.  A few months into the year, I read my students Jan Brett’s The Mitten.  They were enamored with the book and I wanted to take advantage of it.  I didn’t have any resources to accompany the book so I wandered online to see what I could scrounge up.  I found Jan Brett’s website and couldn’t believe what I found.  She had SO many printables for the classroom, from bulletin boards to flash cards, and calendars.  She also had a teacher’s kit and sent my students monthly postcards about new projects she was working on. I quickly realized that the Internet had a lot of resources that could help me through my first year.  One night I was on the hunt for some additional phonics resources that I could print out and use with my students.  A Google search introduced me to Starfall.  I was gobsmacked.  I couldn’t believe the printables, activities, games, and online stories available.  It was truly like finding a treasure trove!  Back in the day, Starfall would send their work journals and cut-up books for FREE along with Starfall pencils and stickers.  I ordered enough journals and books so that every student could have their own. My students really enjoyed the print materials from Starfall, I knew they would love the online books and activities as well.   I was lucky enough to have two computers in my classroom.  They were old and didn’t do much outside of run a word processor, but they were connected to the Internet.  I couldn’t wait to show my students Starfall.  I wish that I could have bottled up their excitement over Starfall.  They were thrilled to be using the computers and loved the fun stories and activities on Starfall.  My students that were struggling with phonics seemed to suddenly get it, Starfall made it click. This was the beginning of my addiction to the Internet.  After seeing what Starfall did for my students, I was eager to find more sites that could make learning fun and engaging.  I found Gamegoo and Book Adventure and soon had my students cycling through those two computer centers throughout the day.  My students were eager for literacy every day and couldn’t wait for their rotation through the computer center.  As the year progressed, I added a few new learning sites each month as a center in my classroom.  I saw the impact that technology made on student learning.  I saw how excited my students were about learning. The following year, I took a position as a computer teacher at a local private school.  They were desperate for a computer teacher, and I was eager to learn more.  I spent my summer creating a scope and sequence (there was no computer curriculum), writing lesson plans, and searching for resources.  I had a handful of ideas based on what I had done with my students the previous year but knew it wouldn’t carry me through the whole school year.  As I was searching for online resources, I discovered that there were excellent lists of websites that could be used with kids.  The problem was that they were literally just lists of links to sites.  There was no description, no organization, it was cumbersome and took a long time to find the really good sites.  I started collecting sites in iKeep Bookmarks, writing detailed descriptions and ideas I had for using the resource with students.  It was my husband who suggested that I start a blog of all the sites and ideas for their use.  If I couldn’t find one comprehensive collection that was well-organized and had clear descriptions, chances were that others had run into the same.  I didn’t really think anyone outside of myself and maybe a colleague would ever use the site.  It really was a place where I could keep track of everything for myself.  Several thousand resources later and here we are If you are looking for a resource that will fit your specific needs, you can search iLearn Technology in a few ways.  The first is by using the search tool bar in the header.  Enter any subject or keyword related to your needs.  I try to tag each post with keywords that I would search if I were looking for the resource.  The second is to use the multi category search in my sidebar on the right.  You can choose a category from each drop down or choose from only a few categories.  For example you might be looking for a science resource for your 2nd grade students.  You could choose “science” from the subject drop down and “Primary Elementary” from the Grade Level drop down.  Every resource on iLearn Technology that matches that search criteria will be displayed. If you aren’t currently involved in Twitter education chats, I recommend you choose one to participate in.  They are always a source of great conversation, thinking, and camaraderie.  Check out @Cybraryman1′s Twitter Chat list here.  Find one of interest and join in the conversation!

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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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