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December/January Issue of #ProjectPLN

This is one of my favorite issues of Project PLN yet.  This issue was particularly near and dear to my heart because it was such a revealing activity when I did the exercise with my own students.  We asked teachers to engage their students in the question: “What would your dream school look...

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Eliademy: Democratizing education with technology

Posted by admin | Posted in Art, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, Foreign Language, Geography, Government, History, Inquiry, Interactive book, Internet Safety, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Music, PE, Phonics, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Technology, video, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 19-11-2013

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ilearn Technology: Eliademy- Democratizing education with technology

What it is: Eliademy has a wonderful mission of democratizing education with technology.  The tool makes it easy for anyone to create an online classroom, for free!  Eliademy makes it easy for educators to create, share and manage courses.  Eliademy is a free learning management system and course content created by you.  Educators can engage students through discussion boards, videos, images, news feeds, visual notifications and calendar with a fast and easy to use interface.  Eliademy is available everywhere: Mac, PC, tablet, smart phone. Very handy!  Even better, you can create a course from your tablet (not available in a lot of LMS/online classroom options).

How to integrate Eliademy into your classroom: Eliademy isn’t just for offering distance-learning.  It is a great way to connect your students in new and awesome ways in a blended-learning environment.  Keep all of your digital classroom resources in one, easy-to access place.  Make sure that your students can always be connected to what is happening in class with a shared calendar. Extend classroom discussions with discussion boards, video, and news feeds.

I’ve long been a fan of blending online experiences with offline.  Students begin to see that learning can happen anywhere, not just in your classroom.  They also connect in different ways online.  I’ve found that kids are willing to have deeper, more vulnerable conversations in an online environment.  This is especially true when the relationships are established first in the classroom.

Host your “flipped” materials using Eliademy.  Not only can students access video, they can extend the experience with access to additional classroom materials, the ability to discuss and share resources online, etc.

Challenge students to create their own course to share.  What are they passionate about?  What can they offer to teach others?

Tips: Eliademy makes the promise that it will always be secure, without advertisements, and free.  Outstanding.

What do you think of Eliademy?  How do you plan to use it in your classroom?

The Making of the Learning Genome Project

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, education reform, For Teachers, Grade Level, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 28-10-2012

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So many of you have offered tremendous support, donations and a megaphone to spread the word about the Learning Genome Project.  I am so grateful!  Today I thought I would lift the curtain just a bit and share a behind the scenes look at the Learning Genome Project.  My plan was to do this in video form using Screenium or Screeny. Those plans were foiled when NEITHER worked even with updates.  #sigh  Instead, I’ll write out my story and take you on a picture journey of how it all took place.  If you haven’t had a chance to lend a helping hand, it is not too late.  Honestly, even $1 makes such a BIG difference!  If everyone of my readers gave just $1, this would be taken care of tonight and we would be able to start the next phase of development. Click here to help out now!

I come from a family of entrepreneurs.  If it doesn’t exist or it can be done better, that is what you do.  This mind-set can be a bit of a curse…once I get an idea in my head, it is like a broken record that plays over and over until I do something about it.  My dad is prime example of this, he started Koostik with a styrofoam cup and an iPhone. Once the idea was there, it stayed until he saw it realized…in this case that means a growing company and product in Restoration Hardware and Red Envelope.  He is awesome.

For me this process started as I dug through curriculum and worked to supplement it with technology tools.  The idea was to “fill” the gaps with technology tools that would make the curriculum work better for students.  As I went through publisher after publisher, I started realizing that the problem wasn’t a lack of technology (if you have read this blog for any amount of time, you know that is a BIG realization for me). The real problem was that we were trying to address the needs of an incredibly diverse population of kids with a one-size-fits-all curriculum.  The troubling thing for me was that I sat on the committees that made the curriculum decisions.  I was sold (just like everyone else) on the premise that these curricula had “differentiated” instruction.  I have come to hate that term.  You know what it means?  It means that curriculum companies can sell more curriculum because they add in a highlighted section that says “differentiation!” and gives a one-size bigger or one-size smaller approach to the exact same problem.  As I went through all of this curriculum, I couldn’t shake the feeling that adding in a bit of technology wasn’t going to solve the problem.

As a computer teacher, I taught 435 students every week.  I taught the same 435 kids for 6 years.  I saw them grow up, learned what made them tick, watched the frustration grow when they didn’t understand a learning objective.  These kids were amazing. They were brilliant. They all had strengths and weaknesses that made them special. They all have a different understanding and approach to the world.  We were stripping all of that uniqueness away and making them learn everything the same. We were expecting that they would learn the same things, the same way, and at the same time.  Ludicrous! Nothing in life or growth and development happens this way, and yet that is what our education system is built on?  This was really troubling for me.  I couldn’t shake that it shouldn’t be that way.

In 2010 I took a year away from teaching for health reasons.  During that year, I acted as an educational consultant for many area schools.  This period of time re-emphasized those stirrings that I was having about education. This curriculum wasn’t working because it assumed too much sameness. I saw brilliant, gifted kids losing their passions because it wouldn’t get them into the swanky private high school (that looked just like every other school). How sad that we ask kids to give up their areas of gifting to get to the next level of learning.  Something is wrong!  One day I was working my way through curriculum, supplementing the holes with technology tools.  I was listening to Pandora Internet radio.  A song came on that I had never heard before, by an artist that was also new to me.  I frantically searched for something to write on so that I could remember this new find.  I remember thinking, “how amazing that we have come to a place in history where we can use technology to predict something as personal as music.”  I was truly amazed that I could put in one piece of information and through a series of algorithms, Pandora could predict other music I would like.  If it can work with music, surely it could work with curriculum.

This was the birth of that niggling thought that wouldn’t go away.  This was the beginning of the Learning Genome Project.  I had recently been introduced to a programmer (@ianchia) through @Doremigirl on Twitter.  Ian and I had shared many conversations about what education apps could look like.  This time it was my turn to ask a question.  I wanted to know if it was possible to program what was in my head.  “Well of course.”  Ian introduced me to some wireframing tools and I was off and running.  Over the next months, I dreamed up how the Learning Genome would work.  I thought about the students that I wanted something better for. I thought about the frustrations I had as a teacher. I dreamed about a tool that would make the whole process easier.

Teachers share something in common: we all want the very best for our students.  There are a few problems with this.  First, we don’t always get to choose what we will teach. Many times our school or district hands us the curriculum and says, “go.”  This is not conducive to doing the best we know how for every child.  Second, we don’t always know that their is a tool/lesson/resource out there that could make all the difference for each student.  Third, we have a limited time to search for that perfect tool/lesson/resource.  A lot of system problems to overcome.  If Pandora can do this for music, I can do it for education.

I started researching how Pandora works, what happens in the background that makes my experience possible?  Pandora is called the Music Genome Project because it used the Human Genome Project as its inspiration.  In the Human Genome Project, genes are mapped out.  In the Music Genome Project, the “genes” of music are mapped out.  I called my version the Learning Genome Project.  Together, we will map the genes of education, those attributes that help us find commonalities that match the right content to each student at the right time.

First, we need to collect information about the learner. If we don’t know the learner, we can’t know what content best fits their needs.  This is, in short, the best student information system ever.

Next, we have to know enough about the school and the classroom to make recommendations. It does us no good to recommend an iDevice app if the school has no access to that device.

We also have to know something about the lead learner (the teacher).

After we have the profile information, it is critical to know where students are in their learning. What needs to be learned?  This is the individualized learning plan…each student has one.

 

From within the ILP, teachers, students and parents can create and have input on the learning goals.  These learning goals inform what happens in the hub of the genome.

When the learning goal has been identified, the genome “hub” comes into play. This is where resources (lessons, videos, apps, experiments, activities, etc.) are matched and recommended for the student.  Much like Pandora, a learning channel is created.

Teachers (and students) can expand the results to view more information about the recommendation.  From here it can be added to teacher and student planners, and materials for the curriculum can be selected.

Teachers can see all student assignments within their planner. Here they can create groups for overlaps of student learning.  They can also create whole-class events.

After a student completes an activity, they record it within their ePortfolio.  This is all completely integrated.  Within the portfolio they can keep notes, documents, pictures, video and badges.  Badges help students have a bread trail of where they have been in their learning.  Portfolio’s are forever associated with a student, from year to year it travels and grows with them.  Students can also have the option of downloading their portfolio for offline viewing.

In addition to portfolios and planners, the Learning Genome Project includes wiki, blog and photo tools.

Community tools keep students, teachers and parents in collaboration.

My brother and I had many of the same teachers growing up.  We are very different people with 5 years separating us.  My favorite teachers were not his.  We had very similar experiences, the same outstanding teachers. But some teachers connected better with me than him.  How do we help every child have influence of a “favorite” teacher?  I created Twitacad.  Even if that teacher isn’t in the child’s school, there is a blended learning component that makes that connection possible.

Twitacad offers teachers and students a platform for sharing, communicating, and learning.  It is all tied in to the Learning Genome. Everything works together.  Virtual teachers are listed as teachers for parents, students and other teachers to interact with.

The Learning Genome Project has assessment tools built in.  Assessment is based on mastery of a skill or concept.  This is directly related to what is happening in the student portfolio so that students, teachers and parents can view evidences of the learning.

How does content, resources, tools, lessons, apps, videos, etc. get into the genome?  It gets tagged with its learning attributes by incredible teachers around the world like you.  We all contribute to this project and we all benefit from it.

The hub (resource aggregation) portion of the Genome is free to everyone.  Every child deserves an education tailored to them.  Additional portions of the Learning Genome Project (planners, ePortfolios, blogs, wikis, Twitacad) will be a subscription based service.

The Learning Genome Project is not curriculum.  It is a sorting tool that pulls the best options for every child.  Teachers will be able to sort results based on price, Bloom’s Taxonomy level, standard, subject, and type of resource.  This will tell you what curricular resources will best meet every child’s needs.  Every time a resource is used, it gets rated by both student and teacher. Resources that are highest rated will be recommended first.

This is truly a quick overview of the Learning Genome project.  There are so many intricacies and features that will make it revolutionary to education.  The one hang up? I need help funding it!  Sure, I could go and get some venture capitalists to fund it. The problem: I want the force that drives what happens to the Learning Genome Project to be what is best for kids…not what best impacts the bottom line.  I believe that if we all put a little into this project, that we can create something revolutionary.  We can all have a part in transforming education for the world.

I hope you will join me.  I hope that you will realize that $1 and a few minutes is a small price to pay for a resource that has the potential to reach every child in the world.  This is a small price to pay for our future.  We can do this.  Please click here and donate now…then spread the word to everyone you know and encourage them to do the same.

Class Blogs: Blogging, virtual classroom, LMS, and more!

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, Blogs, Classroom Management, collaboration, Create, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Web2.0 | Posted on 28-03-2011

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What it is: Class Blogs is a fabulous new way for you to easily create and manage FREE classroom blogs!  What makes Class Blogs so wonderful are all the extras that are built in.  For example, with Class Blogs you can create a virtual classroom space.  With just a few simple steps, you can create an online meeting space for your students to learn and discuss in.  Blogs can be used to post assignments; when you post an assignment to your teacher blog, students can submit the assignment and a pingback will be sent to your blog.  Class Blogs even has features that utilize SMS so that you can send a text message to students and the ability to host lesson plans complete with supporting resources!  Class blogs really offers more than just a blogging platform, it offers many Learning Management System (LMS) solutions making it a great all-in-one tool!  Here are just a few of the ways you can use Class Blogs:

  • Class Blogs – Teachers and students can create blogs to help facilitate classroom learning or the blog can be an extension of the classroom conversation.
  • Learning Logs – Learning logs are sites created by teachers for the purpose of creating online assignments for students. Students can then answer the questions and submit the assignments once they are completed.
  • Learning Management System (LMS) – Teachers can create a blog and use it as a learning management system. Teachers can post online courses and students can submit their assignments (through blog posts) for the course online as well. These assignments can be viewed by the instructor, the instructor can submit feedback, and the instructor can grade the student’s assignment online. Both the teacher and his/her students must have blogs in order to create a successful LMS.
  • Electronic Portfolio (E-Portfolio) – An e-portfolio is a valuable learning and assessment tool which includes but is not limited to a collection of resources and accomplishments that represent the individual. Moreover, it is the author’s personal reflection on the work included in the e-portfolio that creates a meaningful learning experience.
  • Web Conferencing/Virtual Classroom – Teachers/professors have the ability to create meeting rooms or virtual classrooms from the backend of their site. You can upload your presentations, chat with students, public/private chat, webcam, and even share your desktop.

How to integrate Class Blogs into the classroom: Class Blogs has features that make it wonderfully useful for any classroom.  Blogging gives your students a place to write where they have an authentic audience.  An audience of one (the teacher) is SO 1995.  To limit your students to that audience is a disservice.  I find that when my students write in blog form, the enthusiasm to write increases, the richness of language increases, and the ideas are communicated clearly.  Obviously that is a bit of a generalization, I have also had students who don’t want to post for an audience, it makes them nervous to reveal themselves to their classmates in that way.  I let those students blog about topics they are “experts” on as they are building confidence in their learning process.   Students can blog to reflect on learning; write creatively; write as if they were a historical character, famous inventor, or a favorite literary figure; to chronicle learning (e-portfolio style); or to invite others on a journey of inquiry with them.

Using this type of social media in the classroom is important. It helps students learn digital citizenship, Internet safety, and netiquette in an authentic environment that goes beyond the rules and actually lets them practice it.

The additional features of Class Blog make it the perfect place to organize your classroom.  Post assignments in Class Blogs as a learning log, as students respond, your original post will get a pingback making it easy to track students progress. Class Blog also makes it easy to extend learning beyond the four walls of your classroom using the virtual classroom features.  Create meeting rooms to extend classroom discussions, offer additional learning support, or as a place to prepare students for learning.  Class Blogs makes it easy to include podcasts, videos, webcams, private chat areas, desktop sharing in your virtual classroom.

Tips: Class Blogs does not have an age requirement, this means that it is available to k-12 (and beyond) education.  Registration does require an email address.  If your students do not have email addresses, you can create accounts on their behalf.  With Class Blogs you can create unlimited class and student blogs, unlimited free classes/courses, and unlimited free virtual classrooms.  Be sure to check out the feature page for a comprehensive list of the awesome features on Class Blogs, you won’t believe what all is included!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using the Class Blogs in your classroom!

 

Create your own virtual classroom: Edu 2.0 and Vyew

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, collaboration, Create, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Subject, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Video Tutorials, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 18-10-2010

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What it is: Tomorrow I launch my virtual classroom and honestly, I am a little nervous!  It is like the first day of school; everything is carefully planned, all the resources are ready to go, and the students are enrolled and have received their welcome packet.  But, there is still that anticipation and sense of dread that all that careful planning won’t be enough…that something unexpected will happen that will force me to think on my feet.  Really, isn’t that what teaching (and learning) ends up being every day? 🙂  I am using two tools to host my virtual classroom that I wanted to share here.  Even if you teach in a traditional classroom, these tools offer the ability to expand your school day and provide your students more of a hybrid learning model.

Edu 2.0 is the first tool.  I first wrote about and started using Edu 2.0 in 2007.  The tool has only gotten better with time!  Edu 2.0 is an outstanding alternative to Moodle or Blackboard as an online Learning Management System (LMS).  It is completely free to use, multilingual (it auto translates messages!), allows you to teach public or private classes, gives each student an online portfolio, includes a full gradebook, allows you to create curricula and track proficiencies, transcripts of all student grades, tracks attendance, includes forums and wikis, online quizzes, create and track to-do lists, completely web-based, mobile with a free iPhone app, tracks analytics, teach multiple sessions of the same class, upload and access over 15,000+ online resources, parent involvement, define and measure proficiencies, integration with popular web widgets, real-time chat, custom RSS feeds for your class, Calendars, private (designed with students in mind), create and share lessons, provide conditional pathways in lessons (you have to pass one assignment or class before moving onto the next), rubrics, groups, debates, messaging, public and private blogs, surveys, multimedia, and pdf integration.  That is a long list but it really doesn’t even scratch the surface of what Edu 2.0 can do.  This is your one stop shop for a LMS whether you are in need of one for a district, a school, or for your individual classroom.  It is relatively easy to learn and has fantastic tutorials, guides, and support.  The biggest challenge that I have with Edu 2.0 is navigation, not because it is difficult, but because it is so comprehensive!

Vyew is the second tool I am using for my virtual classroom.  Vyew is an online meeting room that is simple to use.  The free version is the one I am using, premium versions are well priced and offer increased options and capacity.  Vyew allows up to 10 students to participate in a room at a time.  Teachers can create and upload course content for real-time and anytime collaborative learning.  Vyew is a lot like Elluminate but doesn’t require any downloads, it runs completely inside the web browser.  This makes it a really easy virtual meeting option for students as they aren’t required to do a lot of extra prep.  The authoring area of Vyew is easy to use, it is a lot like creating a PowerPoint presentation with slides.  Vyew allows for external publishing which means that you can embed the finished presentation on your Edu 2.0 site for those who couldn’t attend the live Vyew session.  Vyew supports a HUGE amount of files including video, pdf, PowerPoint, swf, and many more.  It also allows for real-time desktop sharing which means that all of your students can see what you are doing on your computer as if you were sitting side by side!  There is a built-in screen capture tool for making step by step tutorials.  Both students and teacher have whiteboard drawing tools for on-screen collaboration.  Embedded comments let you include information on the page to be expanded.  Vyew lets you communicate with VOIP (voice over IP), webcam (all 10 can use the webcam!), free tele-conferencing with a unique phone number provided, and voice notes (voice recording embedded in on-screen sticky notes).  This is such a simple to use virtual meeting room and it’s features are among the best.

I am using both edu 2.0 and Vyew together for my virtual classroom.  I felt I needed an online meeting room where I could create meetings on the fly because this class is being held completely online.  I am working with students in third through eighth grade and teaching a 5 week digital storytelling class.  We will be working together to discover the power of story, and how to use different digital mediums to tell a great story.  I am offering this class to everyone but advertised specifically to the students I used to teach for the first virtual classroom.  I did this for a few reasons: parent requests, as a way to stay connected to my students, and I knew what technology skills they had already learned.

How to integrate Edu 2.0 and Vyew Virtual Classrooms into your classroom: Creating a hybrid classroom is an incredible gift to your students.  It offers them the ability to connect with you outside the hours of the school day, and on their own terms.  It gives students time to review content, interact with other students, and learn at their own pace.  Virtual options provide a whole new dimension to learning.  Use a virtual classroom to: extend your classroom and teaching, tutor students individually, offer courses to home school families, connect your students with other classrooms, record in-class learning for students who are absent or have a long-term illness.  There are hundreds of ways that taking your classroom online can benefit your students.  Taking your classroom online gives parents an additional way to be involved in their child’s education and goes one step better, allows them to learn along side their child.  Have a tough new math curriculum that parents are lamenting?  Offer a virtual parent university where parents can learn more about how to help their child with the new learning.  Have teachers that need professional development but can’t find the time?  Use Edu 2.0 for learning on demand.  Edu 2.0 can be utilized as a classroom online learning solution, or as a school or district wide learning management system.  Use Vyew for live meetings with your students.  Make yourself available in a Vyew room at the same time every day for additional academic help.

Tips: You can offer your virtual classes for free or charge depending on their purpose. I wouldn’t charge for a virtual classroom that was an extension to my regular classroom, but you might charge for tutoring or specialized classes.   I am charging for my class and treating it as an after school club.  Edu 2.0 allows you to charge for a class with checkout support using Paypal or credit cards.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Edu 2.0 and Vyew Virtual Classrooms in your classroom!