Monday, August 6, 2012

TOOL #11

The tools I see myself using are Blogger, Wallwisher, and Edmodo. I would like to have students create blogs and use them once per unit (twice per six weeks) throughout the year. I would also like to have a teacher blog where students will be expected to comment on my posts on a more regular basis. I have adapted one of my previous activities (landform Frayer Model cards) so I can use Wallwisher and hopefully make the assignment more beneficial for the students. Edmodo is something I envision using to plan with my team instead of Diigo which we had begun to use last year.

My biggest transformation which has been taking place over the course of the last year is in changing my classroom from teacher centered to student centered. I find that using different modes of technology make this transformation much easier. There are so many options for students to explore the same material with digital tools that much of the work to create a student centered environment is done for us. The options are already out there. I will be incorporating technology more often but this will be much easier having the ipads at our everyday disposal.

Nothing about this program surprised me. But I do find myself coming back to the same idea. I am cautioned not to run to the other side of the boat. I am happy to embrace the new technology because frankly I think it makes my job more fun and interesting and I see the ways that this can open doors to struggling or non-traditional learners. In fact I was recently at a training for my GT certification and the speaker continually spoke of offering options to students for their projects. I like this idea too. But as a teacher and a parent, I think that traditional reading and writing are essential skills that will make or brake students in higher education. This cannot be something that students can continually opt out of. I see how much less time could be spent sharpening or developing (in some cases) those reading/writing skills when teachers try too hard to incorporate more and more technology into their lessons. The 21 Century Learner needs to be able to read, comprehend and express their own ideas grammatically. I think there are many ways to do this well using technology but I think there are also many ways technology can distract from that. My hope is that teachers continue to do a lot of what they are already doing while also finding new ways to engage kids using technology more often and when appropriate.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

TOOL #10

I want students to know and understand the copyright and fair use guidelines. I think many students struggle with how to put thoughts into their own words. There is a power point on Childnet that addresses this issue well. I also want students to understand the importance of keeping their passwords secret from all peers and friends. There are some cyberbullying videos that stress the unfortunate experience of friends betraying friends to a live audience. I think it is important for students to be kind and constructive when commenting online. Students should keep in mind that it takes courage to post thoughts online. These three ideas are important to me in teaching my students about digital citizenship.

I looked at many of the videos and websites listed on the resource page. Some were good and some were not. I would like to show something about copyright and fair use. I think I need help in explaining this to students. The powerpoint/activity is a good resource. I think a video on the cyberbullying would be good as well. I think teaching would include students looking at passages from the internet and having them work to put those thoughts in their own words. Then I would show them examples. I think this skill needs to be taught and learned. It does not come easy. There also appear to be some good games on Childnet for learning about digital citizenship.

I have edited my parent letter that goes home the first week to include information about digital citizenship and its importance in my classroom. I have mentioned it in past years but not to the extent I think it will be needed this year. I now have a lot more knowledge to share with parents about digital citizenship. Hopefully teacher letters in combination with the district letters to parents will help this technology shift happen more smoothly.

Monday, July 30, 2012


I checked out Thinkfinity again. I have looked into it before but never really used it. It does seem like a good search engine for interactive things. My search showed me a number of National Geographic lessons that were specifically interactive for the kids. Most of the interactive games that I came across would be something I would have students work with if they completed a project early. I don't really see incorporating the games I have seen so far into a regular lesson.

I found some neat simulations that I would work into my lessons on Ph ET. I have a good amount of earth science in my curriculum for world geography. I could definitely see using the simulations on glaciers and global warming. Ph ET seems like a pretty neat site. Next I will explore the apps where I think I may find more useful tools.

I made a list of interesting Apps. I downloaded 10, played around with them and then deleted two. I think Educreations Interactive Whiteboard is very cool. It seems easy enough to use. I envision having the kids create a tutorial using the tool. They could explain the theory of plate tectonics or global warming. They could explain how the European Union operates. Hopefully this wouldn't take too long for the kids to grasp because I could see using this quite a bit. I downloaded ibrainstorm which seems neat but in thinking out a use, I just decided it would be faster to jot their ideas down on paper as it is just the first step and not the end product. Maybe if the kids liked it they could use this as an option for their end product. The Popular Mechanics Quake Tracker is cool to show the kids. I could create a lesson around this using the whiteboard or another tool. TinkerBox would be mostly for fun when students finish something early. MindMash and Screenchomp are neat too and might serve as product options for students when creating a project. Toontastic looks fun but I am not sure how I will use it. Maybe it could be an option but I would have to explore it and create requirements and such so the students are actually meeting the objective.

I could easily see students playing with these various tools and accomplishing nothing in terms of class objectives. They may remember that they made a cool cartoon with an astronaut and alien but not have tied it at all to your world geography content for the day. Students need to be accountable so that we know they learned what we have designated to be learned that day. If they don't have to produce anything, it is very difficult to see this. I could see my students creating working in groups of three to create a tutorial on topics such as climate change, ocean current, plate tectonics, biomes that we cover in the first few weeks of school. Then they move as a group to the different stations to view the tutorials and complete a new post in their blog about what they learned. I may actually have them submit a google doc with answers to specific questions instead. I do have a lesson where students view a series of short video clips about overfishing and participate in a lesson to go with the clips. The ipads and netbooks with make this lesson much smoother.

Friday, July 27, 2012


I did not really learn that much about the devices. I have been using a mac book at home for years and I also have an iphone. So, I am familiar with itunes and the sync process. I actually found some of the tutorials to be confusing and I could not access the portal as it said in the video which caused some frustration. I just downloaded the new version of itunes through I couldn't even get to KACE maybe since I am not at school. I also could not access the great list of awesome apps. I went to the EdTech website but didn't see it anywhere. Anyway, I feel comfortable enough with the new technology that I believe I will get to it soon enough. I found a few cool free apps for my two year old anyway.

As for classroom management... I have been thinking about that a lot. I am a little nervous about this. I definitely plan to label the devices that I have in my room. I am not sure exactly what we will get as far as a charging cart/device. Since we are getting ipads, are we just getting a charger to go with each device or will we have a charging station? I do intend to have a a tech rep per class. I like that idea. I have used the baby dells in my room quite a bit so I am not completely foreign to this idea. But I still worry a little. I am used to teaching to the bell, almost to a fault since the kids are not as diligent about cleaning their areas. I will have to be more organized in this way. I am sure the kids will have no problem giving me reminders. I may have them put up the technology and then do their reflection on paper before leaving. Just an idea to keep them working until the end...

Monday, July 23, 2012


I am very interested in the iEarn Collaboration Centre. I think that the Get to Know Others project would be perfect for my World Geography classes. I envision starting this project the second month of school when we study the U.S. and Canada. That would be the appropriate time for students to study their own culture here in the U.S. (which would include the variation of cultural characteristics that students bring from other countries). Students can look at how the U.S. (and Houston in particular) is a melting pot and then make their contributions to the collaboration in the form of reports about their daily lives and special ceremonies as well as drawings for each. If I understand the project correctly, then my students will be able to see what other students around the world have submitted. It would be great if I could filter our search of the collaboration to first explore the contributions of students in Latin America since that is the second region we study. Then for each unit we could explore the submissions of actual students in the region we are studying. I think students would reach a new level of sensitivity and understanding about their place in the global world. I also think having the continued comparison between their lives and the lives of other actual people their age will increase retention. I would also like to use Google Docs to have students share their reflections and revelations of this project with other class periods. Or instead of using Google Docs, I could have the students include this as part of their blog assignment for each unit. I think this idea also lends itself to a year end look at cultures around the world. I could have students build their own final project (last 2 weeks of school) using what they learned from this collaboration project. I think their are a lot of possibilities with iEARN. I tried to register but since they are revamping the site, I cannot register until August 5. I plan to register as soon as possible. I believe I still have some more information to gain from how this will work, but I fully intend to use it if possible.

Just in case that does not work out, the other idea I had was to incorporate collaboration in the immigration project (also during the U.S./Canada unit) that I do with the kids. In this case, I would probably have students share their reflections on immigration after having conducted their interview of an immigrant. I think this can be a sensitive subject so I will allow students to keep their actual interviews or the source of their interviews private. Students will definitely have choices with regard to what type of collaboration they participate in for this project.

I use Skype all the time in my personal life, so I know how the tool works. However, I think I would like to get my feet wet participating in an already on-going project before launching my own (as is also suggested on the iEARN site).


I created the wall above using Wallwisher. I think this is a neat tool and probably the easiest that I have seen so far for the kids to use themselves. I thought this would be a good introduction to web tools. For my example, I chose an activity that I usually have the students do on large index cards. I use index cards thinking the students will use them for review but they usually do not and trying to incorporate numerous cards into a review activity is a challenge. With this wall, I can more easily incorporate the finished walls into the test review lesson. For this particular activity, the students are assigned a number of landforms per group and then they complete a frayer model exercise for each one. I designed it so the group creates one wall and each member signs up with Wallwisher and posts their landform models. The only downside to Wallwisher that jumps out at me is that you cannot invite people to post. It is either everyone or just you. I worry a little about students deleting things from other groups walls or at least students using that as an excuse when they are not finished! Can you delete someone else's post? Maybe there is a solution to this...

My Edmodo Page

I signed up for Edmodo today and I really like it. It seems like an effective tool for both team planning and for use with students in the class room. I created a group for the world geography team. As I understand it, you can share with your whole team just by making one post and it would be private- just for the team members. I definitely think this seems easier and more useful as a team planning tool than Diigo but what I like most is that I can use the same site for student groups as well. I am not sure how I will pursue that yet. I think in using it with students I would start by just having them as read only. Apparently they can still submit assignments but not post to the whole group. I think that would take some building up to. To be honest I am more interested and focused on the students starting a blog for the class through Blogger. I want to see how that goes first. At least now, I know what it available.

Friday, July 20, 2012


Project Information Website

I perused the Google Sites app and I thought it looked very neat. I am considering having my class website through Google Sites. However, for student use, I think is better. Weebly is very easy even for beginners which are most of my students as 9th graders. I used Weebly last year with my students twice. It went well the first time but was even better the second time, probably partly due to my better understanding of the site. Above is a project information website that I just now created for the first website I assigned to my kids. I did not use that when assigned but I highly recommend it in order to have a better understanding to help the students. I didn't want to give away too many ideas so I did not create a model site but I think the project info site will be helpful for kids. Last year I did create a ScoopIt page ( which has many resources for the different topics to help the kids get off to a good start. I find the students more challenged on the research end than on the webpage creation end- especially since weebly is so user friendly. ScoopIt is very easy to use and is still free to set up an account (so is weebly thankfully!) The students did have fun with these, but at first I wasn't so sure how much they learned. However, as time passed and it came to reviewing for EOC, I realized they had retained more information about South Asia than any other region. That made me a believer.

After looking through a few different choices on the Google Apps list the other one that I know I will use next year is Blogger. After having used Weebly last year, I played around with the idea of having my students create a webpage for every unit (region) that we studied. There would be parameters but students would have many choices in what content to include on their pages. However, after using blogger, I decided that a year-long blog would be better suited for that idea. I think a website for each region would be daunting, but a new post for each region with specific tasks (as we have been given here) is more manageable, more collaborative and certainly reflective which is my goal. Students will still create weebly websites, but not for every region and the projects for each will be different and fresh. I also think a blog is better since each student will have their own as opposed to the websites which are nicer for group projects. As for my example: you are looking at it! :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I was feeling ambitious and having worked some with Google Docs, I thought I would explore Fusion Tables as I mentioned in an earlier post. Yikes... It took me a while of watching tutorials and playing around with already existing tables to realize that you have to have a Google Account (different from a Google Apps account). I figured since I had invested so much time already, and it seemed really cool and practical for my class, I would proceed. I created a personal Google Account which is cool because now I have Google Drive to keep things for my personal computer. Anyway, as for Fusion Tables, I managed to get as far as uploading data from a public table and creating a map. Which is what I wanted to do. However, I had a very hard time working with the data in the table and getting it to be just as I wanted it so that the map looked right. I never did make it to the next step of merging another data table. Honestly my brain was a little fried by then. But I have to say that if I got that far, then you shouldn't be afraid. I will go back and try again. If anyone has tips, please share.

So, for tool #4, I went ahead and put our 2011-12 WG road map into google docs and shared it with my team. I made some comments to get the conversation going about planning for this year. I like Google Docs and will continue to use it with my students in the future. I look forward to seeing how it will make team planning easier and more efficient this year.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


This is a TED Talks clip that I showed to my students last year while studying Southeast Asia. I was inspired by some students' oral responses to the video. I was impressed when given a choice a few days later, many students chose to write their opinion based answers on this topic- something they had never heard of before.

This is a You Tube video about pollution and other environmental issues on Mount Everest. It is a quality film that is student friendly and teacher friendly given its short length. I have showed this film and students respond well. Pollution is always a high interest topic in this class.

I love You Tube because I can find short quality videos and shorter versions of full length National Geographic videos for instance. I also find so many relevant videos on TED Talks which the kids are very tuned into. The TED Talks are just the right length to either introduce a topic or just add to your activity. I will enjoy incorporating these into small group stations with the new ipads.

I have also found some great primary source videos using Discovery Education when I taught U.S. History. I had good luck both streaming live and downloading the videos. I was not very impressed with my first look at Teacher Tube but maybe I need to spend some more time with that.

I have used Flickr for images in the past. I like that it is worry free as for copy right issues. I did not find the Disney adaptation very helpful for understanding copy rights. 

Drop Box account created. I think this will make working and sharing from home a whole lot easier. Bam... done.

Friday, July 13, 2012


So the last post was just practice for the real thing I guess. As I slowly get my feet wet in the 11 Tool pool, I am encountering some hazards but over all seem to be making progress. I enjoyed reading some of our fellow teachers' blogs and yet others just confirmed my belief that I have no idea what I am doing! For instance I am following a number of cool blogs but they are not showing up on my blog only on my dashboard and in the Google Reader. However, I have seen other teacher's blogs where they do show up. I am still trouble shooting that one. Any ideas?

I enjoy reading NPR blogs such as 13.7: Cosmos and Culture and All Tech Considered but I do not have much urge to comment. I am also interested in the National Geographic Blog, My Wonderful World, and World Geography Blog. Both of those sites have ideas for integrating technology into my lessons like fusion tables and the 2012 Failed States Index. I am also following Geographic Travels where I have read a few interesting posts but I'm not quite sure about keeping that one yet.

My geography team uses Diigo to share bookmarks. We got a good start on it last fall sharing our old favorites but we have yet to really make it a regular part of our sharing process. It seems really user friendly but we all just need to spend a little more time playing around with it.

Uh oh is that crying? Yep. Until next nap time...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Welcome to my geography blog. This is a place to share ideas, ask questions and even pose solutions about big issues affecting our world and all of us in it. So what's on your mind? Go on, have your say.