Sunday, October 31, 2010

Skills Cafe Newsletter 2010-11-01

      Skills Cafe
     A week at a time - November 2010    TAKE this Survey please.


Congratulations to our sports teams! Football!

F. Links
This link will take you to all the links we have used.

G. Did You Know?

You need to keep track of your community service. Get a form and get started. We can help!

H.  What is in your IEP?

What is in your accommodations list? Be an advocate for yourself.

 I. WatchME Video Contest

check the bulletin board

November 1, 2010                                                                   

A. Week 10- What's Ahead?- Your Webpage for your Toolkit!

Glogster! do you need to make a poster?

See Mrs. Oakes for a username and PW.

Try BridgeURL to have one link to go to your favorites!

Did you take the survey?

GOOGLE CALENDAR- add new deadlines! Are you all caught up? Do you have all your Trimester 2 classes chosen?

C.  The Weeks in Review

What belongs in your Toolkit? As a student you need to have tools in your toolkit which will make your life easier. The google domain has a calendar, a document , a presentation, a website tool, gmail, Quizlet and a way to record audio!, Literary Companion, Sparknotes, Animoto, what else? Snapgrades? Make your own document of all the links. See directions in Moodle.

D. Books on Audio, mp3, itouch, shuffle, CD

Have you thought about listening to your books? We have Night, Mango Street and many more. But even more if you have a library card from Wells Public Library, you qualify for a Portland Library Card, and you also can qualify and download your own audio books.  See Ms. Cowan, Ms. Jortberg and Ms. Oakes to get other books on AUDIO.

E. Do you have a learning tip to share?

You can share your ideas here with your classmates. One of your Animotos, a poem, a story, ideas, your own photos or movies! Nothing to Do? Here is the $20.00 Challenge
You can write an essay for NPR public radio student essay. If your essay is published, I will give you a $20.00 itunes gift certificate. You can have help with your essay. Here are the essay rules.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Explode the Small Moment!

Blog Challenge Week 5

The challenge this week is about explaining a moment in the week where an unexpected event gives us pause, causes us to reflect, think and savor what we are doing. I had such a moment.

I started a new job this year in a Resource Room at our high school.  In the two weeks I had to plan with another teacher we decided to use the toolbelt theory with our students while giving them support to pass their high school classes,  we also wanted to teach them to find, collect and maintain a digital toolkit.

It has been a challenge. Most of the students wanted their support to be what they were used to. However, we kept true to our goal of providing one or two skills a week, skills which could be used during their school assignments, projects and in the future. Finally, this week, week 10, we began to see the payoff.

The small, seemingly insignificant moments included:
a student requesting to use "a graphic organizer thingy"
a student using Readability before printing some work from the Internet
students using to write up their science lab
the boys choosing to solve the 'games' in design squad at PBS instead of a dirtbike race
students staying afterschool to continue working on projects that just take more time 

I could continue, but you get the idea.  Yes, it is November 1, 2010. We have had a few weeks of school, we have taught new skills and now we are seeing the payoff. Students are beginning to choose to use the new tools over the 'old ways'. A small moment that caught me smiling. It has been a challenge, it has been worth it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What Should your Students have in their Digital Toolkit?

As we work with students in our resource room at the high school level,  our plan is to support our students  becoming lifelong and independent learners.While I have only been back in the classroom for two months this year, here are my favorite 10 items that we have considered for their toolkit. While some of these tools are tools we  are using in specially designed individualized instruction, all of the tools are good in terms of Universal Design for Learning.

Tools 1-5

We are part of a google domain, so we assigned a domain gmail account to all students, complete with calendar, documents, chat and presentation. This is the number one tool our students are using.

  • Students share their calendars with their teachers.
  • Students share their writing for editing purposes with their teacher.
  • Students share their presentations for editing purposes with their teacher.
  • Teachers email students with messages about assignments.
  • On occasion, I am able to chat with students when I am online during the school day and this is a nice feature.

Tool 6

Animoto is an online tool where students make slide shows with images, music, text . Educators can request free education accounts where students can make slide shows lasting more than the free 30 second shows. It is a fairly simple process, an educator requests the free classroom account, Animoto sends a classroom code, good for 6 months, then have students sign up using the code and the resources are free to use.

Tool 7

Moodle, we use moodle as an online course delivery system. We have designed a Skills Cafe course where our students check in weekly for the skill of the week. This is place holder where our students can go back and check our recommendations for their tool box.

Tool 8

Readability; This button works on Firefox and is a way for students to use the internet for research and strip the webpage of the ads and extraneous details. This is perfect for all learners. Follow the link, and then drag the Readability button to your browser toolbar.

Tool 9

Khan Academy, is a wonderful resource that all our students will need to have in their toolkit. It was recently recognized in the Google Power of Ten /\ One Hundred Competition and will be subtitling their movies into many world languages. Again, this is great for lifelong and independent learners. If a student is working on a chemistry problem and they have forgotten the process, a quick visit to, will allow them to have a quick video moment to view the process being taught to them as often as they need it.

Tool 10

Quizlet- is another student favorite. This is where students can create, collect or collaborate their learning new vocabulary in any content area, foreign language, science, world studies etc. There is a way to login as your Facebook account and really easy ways to share with others. Did I mention, there is an app for this?

Our next step is for each of our students to make a digital toolkit. This is intended to be an online collection of their favorite tools, available to them at all times no matter where they are, no matter which computer they are on and no matter what they are working on. Stay tuned for the next post about how we had our students create their digital toolkit.  By the way, what is in your digital toolkit? Here is an example from the website, sponsored by Verizon Foundation.  Another Planning for All Learners is another great resource.
Thanks to my students for trying out the different tools. Thanks to my teaching partners for stretching the learning landscape.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What book made the biggest impact on your life? Was it read to you, did you read it?

The book, The Wind and the Willows , by Kenneth Grahame, written in 1908 was read to our 5th grade class, by a long term substitute.

When asked by his friends Ratty, Badger and Mole, if Toad had learned the error of his ways in driving a motor car and was he really going to reform Toad looked this way and that and
“Certainly not!, replied Toad emphatically. “On the contrary, I faithfully promise that the very first motor car I see, poop-poop! off I go in it!”

I can still hear the giggles that broke out in the classroom as the teacher read that last line.

In 5th grade, we had a long term substitute who came in mid-year to get us through the end of the school year. For some unknown reason our class had been through a couple part-time substitutes before a long term sub was hired. This woman was a young teacher and knew exactly how to take an unruly group and captivate them with her choice of a read-a-loud.  She came into our classroom and shared a ‘secret’. She was going to read a really wonderful book to us each day after we finished our classroom work. We were on her team immediately. Then part way through her read-a-loud she announced that if we could get our work done by the last quarter, we would take time and make a play out of the Wind in the Willows and put on a play for our parents and the whole school.

Although the read aloud is just a memory, the scenes of the play still come back to me throughout my life. I ended up being the curtain manager, thus I knew the whole play, all the lines, all the characters, the entrances and the exits.  I still remember getting the book as a present and although I never read it again as a child, it was on my shelf as a good friend. When I had my children, I remember reading it to my son and sharing the story that now for me lives on as a memory.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Life as a Mathematician

This post is part of Melanie Holtsman's challenge to blog about a topic during the next 10 weeks. This is week three. When I saw this topic I was excited to write about it, because I love math! I love the challenge of trying to find the answer and the pattern of math in our lives. Now, I did not say that I practice and can answer all math questions like calculus or statistics, but rather, I like the study of mathematics,  I like the problem solving challenges, and I love searching for patterns in our answers!
SunFlower: the Fibonacci sequence, Golden Section
My favorite mathematical term is Fibonacci! When I was teaching math, as an adult, I learned about Fibonacci. When I taught this concept to my students as 4th graders, they just moved into understanding the Fibonacci sequence of numbers, as well as, understanding how to divide large numbers! It was amazing to watch the power of that understanding.
How do I use math in my everyday life? Well, this weekend, my husband and I are working on a project, tiling our entryway. It requires measurement, problem solving, prediction, reflection and finally, we hope success. The price for success is practice, problem solving and troubleshooting! It is a challenge. Usually on the weekend I am cooking and preserving food for winter. That requires measuring ingredients, looking for recipes, and finally following the directions to make corn relish. Math is all around us. I am a mathematician! So are you.
Entry way half done.

Monday, October 11, 2010

New Media and New Ways to Communicate

Cross-posted at Tech Learning
This blog post is for my son Nathan. Last week he kept sending me links, Mom, you need to blog about this! Gizmodo  , had a post about how to replace your landline with google voice and a couple of gadgets. Then, he suggested I also blog about how Google TV and Logitech Revue were teaming up to change your TV viewing options.  While I have read both articles and claim to not entirely understand how these gadgets will work, I get the  big ideas!
With the latest gadgets and a little reading, some  comprehension and ingenuity I would be able to add enormous functionality to my TV set and video conference right from my living room, among many other options. For the phone piece, I would be able to circumvent the monthly fees associated with a phone company coming in and plugging in a box with wires and phones in order to meet my communication needs, by buying a gadget and setting up my own phone system!
While these options are revolutionary, I think there is too much of a learning curve for me and most of us, to attempt to add these tools to our household gadgets. However, I believe in twelve months, these two options will have been streamlined for anyone to be able to plug and play. After all, that is what most of us want, the best and newest options in working order, without us understanding all the background information necessary to make the changes, we just want to plug and play.

Now, on the other hand, Google Voice  is something that I have embraced and here is why. With my google account and user name, I signed on to have my google voice number collect calls from my student’s parents. Why? Do you know how difficult is it to get a phone line out of a school building, or to have a way for parents to get a hold of you without giving your home phone number? My google voice number gave me the freedom to have my phone number available to give out to anyone. The beauty of google voice is that the incoming phone calls go right to voicemail and are transcribed to text, so I get the messages instantly as text, even I am not taking calls. It took me all of 5 minutes to set up.

I even gave the Google number to two of our students who are on vacation. They call in each day and leave us a report about their travels. It is great to have the audio and the text of their reports.

The next service I am using is Netflix Instant Viewing through my Netflix account. I used my paid subscription to have DVD’s sent to me and then I can also use the instant viewing to watch selected movies on my computer at a moments notice. The BEST feature I just found, is that I had watched part of a movie at home, then while on the road I signed into my account to finish viewing the movie. The account remembered how far I had watched the movie and picked up where I left off. How sweet is that?

So, thanks to Nathan, you are getting these posts about some revolutionary things you can begin using immediately without much of a learning curve. However, you will also have some even more revolutionary things to look forward to in the coming months. As for me, I am waiting for more plug and play functionality and less of a learning curve while taking advantage of these new media and communication offerings.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Blog Challenge 2010-10-10

A simple survey! I have to share my favorite, longest running simple survey. The author of the blog, Kevin's Meandering Mind, Kevin Hodgson, sixth grade teacher from Western MA  says,
It’s been quite some time since I have launched Day in a Sentence, the collaborative venture where I ask you, dear reader, to boil down your entire week or a day in the week (your choice) into a single reflective sentence. Then, you post your sentence as a comment to this blog post. My job is to collect all of your sentences and then publish them together over the weekend.
So, what do you say? Do you have  a pocket of reflective energy? How can you capture your week or a day in your week in a single sentence? Add your sentence to the comments here, and spread the word.
I have been a commenter to Kevin’s blog for over 2 years now. Most weeks I am able to comment, one sentence! Sometimes, I put the challenge aside and then I forget. However, this is the longest running response I have made in the digital world. Kevin is very creative and our responses have been in the form of alliteration, poems, sentences, on a whiteboard (Scribblar), one word and more. We even take turns as the prompt writer, collector and finally author of the post. Shared authoring helps spread out the tasks, and my sharing week.

I have to mention the other “survey” collection that I have been part of, the 365 Days of Photos. Today is actually day 356 of 365 in my first year.   Yes, that means I am going to continue with either 365 days in year two or 365 day in 730 (365+365= 730). Apple's prior to apple jelly This is a visual journal of my year, and each image has a story to tell. A story I would not have written down. My point, be creative and appeal to all the learning senses when asking a “survey” question. Allow your students to leave a word, a sentence,  or an image in response. You can actually try it out here and leave me a comment about this post. The directions are posted on a sticky. You can leave an image as long as you get way back to the original URL that contains the .gif or .jpg ! If the word FILE is part of the URL, you didn't get far enough back. (FlickR use to allow a jpg URL, but no longer. I use wikipedia ) My other purpose in sharing WallWisher is that you only have room for 160 characters. My students are delighted that the response has to be SHORT!  As is best practice, all comments will be moderated. Stop by and give it a try. Leave a comment in words or an image.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I am a reader!

Melanie Holtsman posted this challenge at her blog as a way to find/have purpose for blogging. I liked her idea. I blog for  two times a month, I blog for TeachHub one time a month, I blog for myself, hm, well, uh.... when the spirit moves me. So, thanks to Melanie, I will blog for myself, using her topic prompts for the next 11 weeks. If you are reading this and have been waiting for the right moment to begin blogging, I mean posting to your blog, not just reading blogs, this may be the moment you have been waiting for. Try it. Be sure to email Melanie and she will link back to your blog. You will see the power of your new personal learning network! Here goes!
 The Topic for this week's challenge:
 What is your life as a reader like? Do you read for work, pleasure, instructions or emails? What is your favorite author and/or genre? What is your favorite reading spot? What did you like to read when you were the age of your students?
As a high school student,  in Suffield, CT, I read just about every young adult book I could find in my public library, and when our new high school was built with a beautiful library I read poetry and fiction/fantasy. My favorite poet was Rod McKuen, author was Tolkien, The Hobbit, and newspapers, magazines for current events.
My favorite reading spot had to be my bedroom. My favorite author wrote stories about Maine and I devoured them all. I may actually remember her name, sometime.
Currently, I read hundreds of emails a day, at least a dozen blogs, pages of Facebook and Twitter. You will notice I do not read books for pleasure. However, I listen to hours of books! My most recent is the Girl with the  Dragon Tatoo series. I loved listening to that series so much that I finally bought a book to read during winter. My question to you readers, is listening to audio books reading? I say a huge yes! What do you say?

Friday, October 1, 2010

I did it!

I made a challenge for myself when I changed positions and moved to the Wells High School Resource Room, that I would hit the google search within the year. I was going to check each month to see when it happened. Today, October 1, 2010, when I googled wells high school resource room  this is what came up in .38 seconds! I made it in one month.