Who Likes Free Stuff?

If you're like me, you love free stuff! Not free with strings, just plain free.  At Kevin & Amanda's Free Fonts site, you can download one font at a time, or download all 123 free scrapbook fonts in just one click...(you have to scroll down the right sidebar to find the "Download All in One Click" button).
There is no email address or sign up required...you gotta love that!  Thanks Kevin & Amanda!


Digital Media in Schools Now

Do you ever wonder what 21st century education actually looks like and sounds like? Wonder what the teacher is doing & saying? Wonder what the students are doing and saying? This video begins to answer these questions and it's quite impressive, bold and here now.  Five stars in my opinion....a must see if you're a teacher not retiring anytime soon. 


Online PD Module #1: Google, Google, Google

If you know me as a teacher, you know I absolutely LOVE Google....and no, I'm not just talking about the search box, although there are wonderful hidden search features of the Google search box, too.  I love Google because it has a plethera of resources for teachers and students.  So for my first online module of my new e-pd series, I'd like to take you on an exploratory journey of some of educational uses that Google has to offer.  This module is designed into mini "field trips" that may be taken one right after another in one sitting or broken apart as your time permits. Like anything, you will only get out of it what you put into it....so "p-develop away!" This module should take approximately 2 hours to complete.
Objective: The learner will increase their digital awareness of Google applications and its digital literacy benefits.

 Please complete this now:

Click on the link above to read all about a NEW way to use Google's search tool.

Try It!: Enter "dogs" as the search word.  What pops up in the Wonder Wheel?
Be Thinking!: Evaluate how the Wonder Wheel helps student's conduct research on the Internet.

Click above to navigate your way to a becoming a Google Earth expert.  You must first download Google Earth and then take the quiz at the above link to learn how to get the most out of Google Earth.
Try It!: Like the kids like to do, enter your home or school address into the Find box. 
Be Thinking!: Design a NC SCOS social studies lesson using Google Earth.
Extra Credit: Check out Google's full Geo Suite!

Once you've learned how to navigate around in Google Earth, you'll LOVE taking your students on a Google Literature Trip, that combines geography, history and literature. 
Explore your grade level link.  Then, select the K-2 link and find the title Abuela.  Download the Abuela file (it will automatically import into Google Earth if you have already downloaded it) and go from place to place.

Try It!: Go on a Google Lit Trip with your class for the book, Abuela, and..... 
Be Thinking! Ask your students to do a lit trip review of the Abuela's lit trip.  
Extra Credit: What is the significance of this image....a sailboat in NY harbor?

Type the 'food' into the Image Swirl search box....and see what happens.

Try It!: What does the "food" image swirl search reveal?
Be Thinking! Show your students this new cool tool, ask them to compare & contrast how a traditional image search is alike/different than a Google Imageswirl.

Forms is Google's answer to Zoomerang...but free and super simple.  Think of it as a non-technical survey. You have small or large group of people and you need to get a response from everyone but you don't want 30 or 90 new email messages in your inbox.  Google Forms is your answer, especially for teachers, students and school committees.  Here are a few screenshots of Forms I have created this year for learning and assessment. 

Here are a few examples of Forms I have created this year for use with teachers.

Now it's time for you to make a Google Form.  If you're a visual learner, watch this video below first, it really helps to "see" someone else make one.

Or, if your learning style is more receptive, you can follow step by step written directions here to:

Try It! Now, create your own Google Form.  Think of some information you want to know from your students or fellow teachers...student interests, brainstorming summer reading lists, hospitality committee information, phone tree information, assessments....be creative, and it doesn't have to be long and complicated.  Here's a Magazine Survey I made last spring to get teacher input on titles to purchase for the guided reading leveled book room....and then a screenshot of the response summary

After you create your Google Form,

(see how much you learned from this module!)



New e-Professional Development Series: Coming Soon

Coming soon.....I'm in the process of developing some electronic professional development modules.  The first one will be released this Friday.  The first module will be on exploring the benefits of Google in the classroom.   I will lead through an electronic journey of several Google applications that will have real authenic meaning for you and your professional needs.  Please let me if there are any topics you would like me to explore for future Hello e-professional development modules. 


Capturing Background Knowledge with 21st Century Tools

Everyday I find myself moving away from teaching tools of the past....an overhead projector for example, which seems like a dinosaur now....and into technology tools of the 21st century.  Some of those basic tools of the past like paper and pencil are used less and less by teachers and students each year. Great teaching and learning is still occurring daily, however, the tools we use to make this teaching and learning happen are being replaced with 21st century learning tools that are more efficient and differentiated with methods characteristic of 21st century teaching and learning (see my parent article about 21st education.) In an effort to answer this research question: "How can technology enhance the capture of students' background knowledge?" I used the I-Search research process, a method for teaching students how to conduct research and solve information problems in school. I will walk you through the I-Search components I used in a way that you, too, could use this research method with your students.

In this section students will describe what they already knew about this question when they began their search and why they cared about or were interested in this question.  
Read other student example questions here.

Photo Image @ fotopedia

I researched the question: "How can technology enhance the capture of students’ background knowledge?" and brainstormed what I already knew about "background knowledge and technology" using a concept web using http://bubbl.us/ Here is my concept web:

In this section, students will describe the sequence of steps in the search. For example, students will describe what sources they began with, and how these led to further sources. Students will describe problems or breakthroughs in their search-tell when they really got interesting. Students can also tell how their questions changed or expanded as a result of the search process, and they should acknowledge the help they received from others in obtaining valuable sources. 
 Read student examples of the step here.

In addition to searching the internet to find answers to my question, I hit the virtual stacks of ECU's Joyner Library. The internet is full of resources for online graphic organizers, but there is very little research on collecting and capturing background knowledge using web-based tools.  If you consider a KWL (at least the K part) a formative pre-assessment, then there are more web tools being used for this purpose. I also found information on my own personal professional library shelves, especially from the book called Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement by Robert Marzano.


Here students will focus on three or four major findings or conclusions and support them with examples, stories, or arguments that will help the reader understand how they arrived at those conclusions. They will try to connect their findings with their original questions. They might also suggest further questions to explore in the future. Students should include any analyses they did‹cause and effect, pro/con, compare and contrast, or sequencing.  Read here for some more student examples of this step.

What I learned is that although KWL is a research based proven way to increase student achievement, many teachers are still capturing this student knowledge in traditional ways.  Either through whole class charts or  individual student reading response journals.  With both of these methods, efficiency and time is sacraficed, and there is not 100% student participation because either some kids never raise their hand and some kids never get a turn or students are just not held accountable to KWL expections in a reading journal. The feedback I received from teachers is that although they know they should go back and read each child's reader's response journal, they don't always have the time to flip through and actually read through 25-30 journals a day.  What I also found is that there is such an intense focus on improving reading comprehension and so much emphasis on standardized testing in the 21st century, that teacher's attention to considering students' background knowledge is waning..."how much a reader knows about the subject is probably the best predictor of reading comprehension" (Fisher, Frey & Leu, 2009).

Image Shared with permission by Laura Jayne Parson

What I learned is that teachers are capturing background knowledge in a variety of ways using various 21st century tools like Audicity, where students "say" what they know. Also, Glogster is a creative open-ended way for students to show through images and videos what they already know.   Still yet, teachers don't always have time to open 25-30 audio files and/or glogs to review what students have recorded.

Teachers can also capture students' background knowledge using classroom clickers. The pros of this method is that all students can tell what they know (or don't know) at the same time, and one of the cons of this method is the answer choice are limited, where a student might know more about a question than any of the any choices allow. 

Image from my classroom 2009

Wordle is also a 21st century tool that students use to tell what they know.  With this tool, a student's background knowledge will appear in a large to small format, with ideas and words appearing larger for more predominant background knowledge.  The most efficient way I found to capture background knowledge of all students is through the use of Google Forms.  With this method, all students can add as much information as they want and students can complete the form on their own, asynchronously.  I was amazed at the responses by students, I do not think I would have gotten the depth of background knowledge from a whole class chart.  Here are screenshots of web-based ways to capture students' background knowledge using a Google Form K-W-L.

This section will give students a chance to describe how they have developed as a researcher. They will answer the question, "What do you now know about searching for information that you didn't know before?" To answer this question, students will describe those findings that meant the most to them. They might also discuss how their newly found knowledge will affect the way they act or think in the future. Finally, they might want to talk about the skills they have developed as a researcher and writer. Read student examples here.

As a teacher researcher, I synthesized my findings by using the double entry strategy of note-taking.  I found that most definitely, technology can enhance the capture of students' background knowledge.  Here is a screenshot from a KWL made in Google Forms about Immigration & Family Heritage.

Here a screenshot from the way the Google Form looks on the editing side after all students have entered their background information into each field.  This Google Form was created by me to capture 90 students' background information about Geography & Maps. Once students SUBMIT the form, all responses are "dumped" into one spreadsheet.  A teacher can read all students' background knowledge in one document at the same time...no papers, no mess, no cumbersome journals.  The research question has definitely proved that technology can enhance the capture of students' background knowledge.

I was really impressed with the amount, quality and depth of background knowledge I was able to capture by using Google Forms for a KWL chart.  Students responded positively to enter their background knowledge into a "survey." Students were also able complete this on their own and take as much time as they needed.  It also did not take whole class time and teachers were pleased that with the print out of all student "background knowledge data" was collected into one document...that is a strong 'pro' of this format.

This section will have of their references in alphabetical order.

Dochy, F., Segers, M. & Buel, M. (1999). The relation between assessment practices and outcomes of studies: The case of research on prior knowledge. Review of Educational Research, 69(2), 145-186.

Fisher, D., Frey, N. & Leu, D. (2009). Background knowledge: The missing piece of the comprehension puzzle. Portsmouth, NW: Heinemann.

Marzano, R. (2004). Building background knowledge for academic achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.

McKeown, M., Beck, I., Sinatra, G., & Loxterman, J. (1992). The relative contribution of prior knowledge and coherent text to comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 27(1), 78-93.

Miller, D.  (2002). Reading with meaning: Teaching comprehension in the primary grades. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.

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