Sunday, December 25, 2011

Blog (weekly)

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2012 Where Are We Going?

We are in the final week of school before our winter break. Students are taking finals, finishing class projects, and counting down the days until break. It seems like a great time to reflect on the school year but also to look ahead. The past 3 or 4 weeks have been crazy busy, as seen by my lack of blog posts. I don't really blog for readership. Blogging is all about being able to reflect on the work I do and share the successes of our public school teachers. Yes, those same teachers who are vilified in the press and the associated discussion boards.

Our teachers do great work and face extreme pressures to bring a high quality education to their students. As I walk the halls of my buildings and have conversations with staff members, I can feel the strain, see the strain. This is where my dilemma begins as I ask myself this question: "Am I part of the strain?"

In my position, I provide instructional technology support to teachers in 5 elementary schools. As someone who lives on the web, I come across many resources that fit into the curriculum. I am a believer in the power of the Internet and see the connections to student learning. But sometimes, I feel that I am just maintaining the technology integration skills for my teachers instead of expanding them. I want my teachers to grow in their comfort with technology and see more ways to integrate it into their teaching. But at the same time, I see what my teachers have to do on an ordinary day, and I do not want to push something upon them, becoming part of the strain.

How can I help my teachers grow professionally while respecting their time and the responsibilities placed upon them? That is a question I need to answer in 2012.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Technology and Self-Reflection

Every day, I work with teachers who use technology for a variety of purposes. Today was different. Mr. Sinden is a 5th grade teacher...and a really good one. We were discussing his latest inquiry-based lessons that he did with his students. During this time, he showed me his reflection journal. Using Microsoft OneNote, he keeps a journal to reflect on his lessons and units. I thought this was a great use of technology for a simple, but powerful task. In his journal, he would write down things to remember for next year, things that went well, etc. With OneNote, he can setup seperate workbooks for each subject and subdivide those workbooks into sections for the units he teachers. How many times do you write some thoughts down but then don't remember where they are? Getting them into a program like OneNote makes the reflection task easier and more efficient.

One of the features he really liked was the search feature in OneNote. The search will look for your key words in any notebook that you create. So if you cannot remember where you wrote down a particular note, you can search for the key word and it will find any instance where that word(s) appear. OneNote can also be accessible from multiple computers. Link your OneNote to a Microsoft Live account, and you can now access your OneNote from any computer through your Live account.

Don't have OneNote on your computer? No can use an online version of OneNote for free through Microsoft Live!

Want to learn more about OneNote? Two colleagues in my department recently conducted a webinar on the subject. Check out the recording here: OneNote Webinar.

Reflection is a great tool that is often overlooked or shoved to the side but its impact on our teaching practice can be great. No matter which tool you use: OneNote, Evernote, pencil and paper, etc., take time to reflect.

This is technology that actually works!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wikis and Word Work in the Daily 5

In the district where I work, teachers at the elementary school level use the Daily 5 management strategy for their Language Arts instruction. One of the 5 activities is word work. Students traditionally do some spelling pattern activities during their word work time. Yesterday, I had the privilege of working with a 2nd grade team who wanted to do more with word work. Our technology integration strategy was to incorporate wikis into word work time.

In my district, we use Microsoft SharePoint for our teacher websites. As a part of this package, teachers can setup a wiki within SharePoint and control who has access to edit the wiki. Now kids are doing their usual word work activities on the class wiki.

As you can see above, students are adding words to the wiki that follow the spelling pattern for the week. This teacher had each student choose a different font style to delineate who added words to the wiki. The teacher can look this up in the history, but this strategy provides a visual reference too. The kids love choosing their own font style as well!

One item I stressed to the 2nd grade team was to take advantage of the completed wiki at the end of the week. By revisiting the wiki at the end of the week, the class can review the list, make corrections, and delete words that do not belong. They can also have any further discussions about the spelling patterns. Revisiting the wiki also makes the work seem more worthwhile to the students. Otherwise, this assignment could have been done on paper and turned into the teacher.

An activity like this could be done with any wiki site. PBworks and Wikispaces are great places to check out if you need to setup a wiki for your class.

This is technology that actually works!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Document Cameras and SMART Notebook...A Perfect Match

Many of the teachers I work with have been using document cameras for the past year. The two prevailing models are Avermedia and IPEVO . Each model has its advantages. The Avermedia cameras are feature filled while the IPEVO is nicely priced...$70!

My teachers love using them for a variety of purposes.

  • showcasing student work
  • demonstrating with manipulatives
  • reading a book and showcasing the pictures
  • using it as a QR code reader
All of this is great but my teachers still have issues while using their document cameras. Each camera has its own software. My teachers use SMART Notebook for just about everything, but they are forced to use the document camera software when it is in use. It would just be great if SMART Notebook would allow you to show the document camera image within Notebook.Now you can and this has been great news for my teachers.

Avermedia has a flash based app that allows you to insert your live document camera image directly in SMART Notebook. Now you can use your Avermedia document camera without having to use their software. 

This is great for the teachers with Avermedia document cameras but what about those with IPEVO document cameras? Well, IPEVO users still need use the P2V software. After opening the P2V software, teachers will open SMART Notebook. With SMART Notebook open, select the Transparency icon. Now the document camera image will show within SMART Notebook and all the SMART Notebook tools are at your disposal.

No matter which of these camera types you have, both can opened and manipulated in SMART Notebook. 

This is technology that actually works!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

PD On Your Own Part 2: Twitter

Twitter is more than celebrities, athletes, and political staff spouting off about anything and everything. Twitter is one part of the PD On Your Own Tool belt that educators can use to grow as professionals. So why should educators use Twitter?
1. networking with like minded professionals
2. a wealth of resources is shared daily
3. a place to seek affirmation with others like themselves
4. a place to contribute.

So where do you start?
1. Sign up for a free twitter account
2. Install Tweetdeck.
3. Do a hashtag search and use this to find some educators to follow.
4. Start slow and then start to contribute.

Some Twitter Tips:
1. Be a smart don't win a prize for following the most people. Doing so could make Twitter too much to follow, leading to non-usage.
2. Search the hashtags to find Twitter users who share the same passion, interests, etc.
3. No fear...the Twitter world in education circles is a good place. People will help you if needed.
4. Contribute...the more people contribute, the better pool of resources that are available to all.

Nothing in this post is ground breaking tech, but it is technology that actually works.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

PD on Your Own: Part One - Blogs

On Monday, October 10th, I will be doing a presentation at the MOREnet Instructional Technology Conference (MITC) entitled "PD On Your Own". In preparation for my presentation, I will be blogging about different pieces of my presentation. Today, we will take a look at how to use blogs for your own professional development.

I am an avid blog reader and I collect many of my ideas, resources, and technology integration strategies from the blogs I read. To keep up with the 20 or so blogs I read daily, I enlist the help of Google Reader. With my Google Reader, I always have an up to date look at what blog posts are new to me. Instead of visiting all these different web sites, their content is aggregated for me. Not sure what I am talking about, check out "Google Reader in Plain English".

For iPad users, you can view all your blogs in one place with the FlipBoard app. Flipboard allows you to customize the news feeds (blogs, Twitter, Facebook) you want to view. It puts them into a book format that you can flip through. Click HERE to see Flipboard in action. I have only been using Flipboard for a few weeks but I really like it. It allows be to peruse through a bunch of information and then pick the content that I want to investigate further. I especially enjoy Flipboard for Twitter...but I will talk about that at a later time.

You may be asking: "How do I even start"?
1. Sign up for a free Google Reader account.
2. Find one blog to follow by doing a Google search or visit my website for a list of the blogs I read.
3. Start small and then expand your blogging horizons as you take your journey of PD on your own.

This is technology that actually works!

Monday, September 26, 2011 and Elementary Writing

Simple Tech Integration: Using for constructed response questions

Not every technology integration in your classroom needs to be an elaborate project that takes weeks. Sometimes the best uses are the simple, everyday occurrances in your classroom. During a training session, one of my 5th grade teachers discussed how he used during his language arts block.

Each week, students are answering a constructed response question on a reading story or book. Normally, students would respond on paper and get some feedback from the teacher. This year, these students are answering these questions on in small groups. The students visit the link provided by the teacher and work on their responses together. When everyone is done, the students then look at how the others answered the same question or a different one. From there, the teacher has options about how to proceed.

They could:
a. bring up the site on the IWB and discuss the pros and cons for each answer.
b. have the students critique the other groups' work.
c. have the students read over the other answers and then make improvements to their own.

There are several reasons I love this technology integration strategy.
1. It is simple. The teacher creates a new document on and adds the link to their website for students to access.
2. Students are learning from each other. makes it simple for students to see each other's work and then use that as a learning experience. Students are providing authentic feedback for each other, while the teacher can guide these conversations.
3. is free and does not require a log in!

This may not be the newest resource out there. It may not be the flashiest or most groundbreaking...

but it is technology that actually works!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Utilizing TED Talks at the Elementary Level

Utilizing TED Talks at the Elementary Level

In preparation for an upcoming staff development session, I was looking for an inspirational video to show at the beginning. Without hesitating, I searched the TED Talks website for some inspiration. While browsing through some of the videos, I came across a video that made me step back and reflect.

"What Adults Can Learn From Kids" by Adora Svitak made me think about how this concept could be applied in the elementary classroom. Many times, we in the education field are so focused on teaching the prescribed curriculum, that we do not tap into the resource that is our students. Students are passionate about many different topics that may or may not fit into district curriculum as prescribed in the curriculum documents. Just because a topic of interest is not dictated from curriculum documents and the teacher's manuals, doesn't mean it is not worthy of our classroom time. In fact, we need to embrace these interests and utilize them to deliver our curriculum.

Do you want to tap into your student's passions and cover curriculum at the same time? Try this idea.

1. Show your students Adora Svitak's TED talk and probe your students about the following items:

  • What is their area of expertise?
  • What is their passion?
  • How could their passion help others?
2. Use the students' passions as a topic for an upcoming research project. This can be individualized or students with similar passions could work in small groups.

3. While doing this research project in your room, incorporate the following curricular topics:

  • Work in various writing objectives from your curriculum
  • Work on various research skills from your curriculum
4. Give students choice on how they wish to present their finding or what they will be doing with their research.
  • work on oral and written communication objectives from your curriculum
In this example project, students are learning about areas of interest and the teacher is covering their communication arts curriculum.

Students want to learn about items and ideas of interest. Greater student passion leads to higher levels of commitment, work, and hopefully learning. Any time that educators can tap into student interests and cover curriculum at the same time, that is a win-win.

This is technology that actually works!

Friday, September 9, 2011

QR Codes in the Elementary Library

No matter where you look, it seems that QR codes are popping up everywhere. Shopping for real estate, looking at store ads, or reading a magazine, you are bound to find these interesting codes. Whether QR codes are fad or here to stay, their presence right now is strong. 

With this in mind, our elementary Instructional Technology Specialists were brainstorming ways to use QR codes in the elementary school...the library seemed like the perfect spot. All of our librarians had just received web cameras to use for Skype, so why not find another use for them and get more bang for our buck. Now that we had a focus, the question was: How could QR codes be an asset to the library?

In Missouri, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students have the opportunity to read the Mark Twain Award books. With that in mind, we recruited some librarians to make a book trailer for each book. Most of the librarians used Photostory to create the book trailers. The book trailers were loaded to Schooltube and a QR code was created for each schooltube video. With these codes affixed to the books with some book tape, students can now get access to their book's trailer. Students can come up to the web camera, open the QR Reader software, and hold the code up to the camera. The camera takes a picture and students get to view the book trailer. Hopefully it makes them want to read the book!

Our goals for this project are bigger than just 12 book trailers. We hope students get energized by this and want to create book trailers for their favorite books. Maybe it is an incentive for reluctant readers to read more books and create a book trailer. This does not have to end with book trailers either. Students could create physical projects (posters, art, etc.) that can be photographed and uploaded to the web (and linked to a QR code). That is one of the great advantages to QR just need something with a URL.

We hope teachers see this as an authentic product and encourage their students to do this instead of the dreaded book report. Over time, more and more books in the library could have their own book trailers, Prezi presentations, glogs, etc.  Students would feel pride to know that their work is serving a purpose.

So bottom line: If any project is put on the web, its URL can be turned into a QR code!

Here is a list of the items and programs we used for this project:
web camera - Lifecam VX-2000
Note: For the QR Reader, you must also download Adobe Air.

Authentic products for an authentic audience create meaningful learning experiences. 

This is technology that actually works!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Blogging hits the elementary mainstream

This week I felt a huge sense of accomplishment...blogging is becoming mainstream in our elementary classrooms. For the past three years, teachers had the ability to blog through our Microsoft SharePoint based classroom websites. The blogs are hosted in district and teachers give rights for access to the blog, who can contribute, etc. At first, our techie teachers dove in and got the ball rolling. Other teachers took notice and more teachers started to dabble. Then came the beginning of this year...a majority of the teachers I have assisted had a blog on their website. That was enough to get me excited, but that was not the reason for my elation. It was the application of the blogs to their curriculum that was so exciting. Students are now blogging about a wide range of topics:

  • reader's response journals 
  • written response journals
  • science reflections
  • free student writing

Students are having online conversations with each other and their teacher. Instead of writing just for the teacher, students are writing for each other. This expanded audience equals greater accountability and greater effort. Teachers are taking advantage of the blogs by showcasing and discussing blog post and comments in groups at the SMARTBoard. From there, students can provide analysis of the writing and its ideas. This is more than just is writing with a purpose, an audience, and the ability to apply 21st century communication skills to their daily work.

So what is next? I would love to see teachers offer students more choice and freedom on their blog assignments. Allowing students to have a "Passions Blog" so that they could express themselves about topics that are a passion would be fabulous. Incorporate some language arts standards here with some 21st century research skills, and now you have a motivated student ready to write with a purpose!

So you are an elementary teacher who wants to blog with your students but your district does not use SharePoint for teacher websites. SharePoint is just the tool. Find another blogging platform, such as Kid Blog. It is free and easy to use. The same results can be achieved regardless of the blogging platform.

It feels good to see blogging as a mainstream teacher tool in the elementary school!

This is technology that actually works!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Technology and Project Based Learning

Today was our first day back to work. There is some sadness that summer is over but you can feel the excitement as teachers return for another school year. As I had a moment today between back to school meetings, I reflected on the work I did over the summer. As usual, I taught some summer workshops on items like CPS clickers, SharePoint websites, etc.

But.....none of these compare to a new workshop that I taught with my colleague Elaine. The workshop was titled Designing Technology-Infused, Project-Based Learning Experiences.

For two days, we showcased various Web 2.0 resources and collaborated with our teachers to see how these could fit into a project based learning environment. The work they did and the ideas they shared were truly inspiring! Here is my favorite idea from the session.

1. A 5th grade teacher wanted his field trip to be more than an isolated event. So he decided to tie this field trip in with his animals science unit. Our local zoo has a list of endangered and threatened species that are housed in the zoo. So, students will be doing some research while on the field trip about one of the threatened and endangered species. This entry event will lead into their study of animals, how they become endangered. I love this idea because it takes the field trip from being just an isolated event to one that sparks curiosity and wonder for the students. To incorporate one of our technology tools, this teacher is going to use  as a central note taking/thought area for students. By using this resource, the students have a running list in which to refer during the project.

During our 2 day session, we highlighted many resources. Here are a few that became our participants favorites.

Data for Projects
Presentation Tools
Collaboration Tools
Multimedia Project Resource List

Project-based learning just seems to make sense. When done successfully, it allows students to practice/learn 21st century skills, makes the learning just more exciting, and is a great opportunity to use many technology tools.

This is Technology that actually works!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My blog...about time

Welcome! My name is Bob Deneau and I am an Instructional Technology Specialist for the Rockwood School District in suburban St. Louis, Missouri. This year will be my 5th in my current position where I work with elementary teachers to effectively integrate technology into their teaching...and that is what this blog is all about.

It is my goal to blog as a reflection on the work that I do and to share technology integration ideas that "actually" work. We often hear the phrase "Technology is great when it works!" I want to share what my great teachers are doing in their classrooms so others can use this knowledge for their students.

If you are an elementary teachers, work with elementary teachers, or know someone who is interested in quality technology integration, please follow this blog and offer your comments to me.