Blogging made relevant for Non-Bloggers

Apr 28, 2006 by

At the end of March I posted about the continued, and in some cases increased, need for supervision of students using the Internet in the classroom. Many schools have been blocking blogs, wikis, and other social sites in an attempt to eliminate the need for supervision. Rather than embrace the new technologies they have “washed their hands” of carefully watching and selecting appropriate social networking sites. Some districts have even come close to demonizing blogs, stating that they have no place in education at all. Many other districts and teachers have yet to even see a blog, let alone discover the great potential for connecting students across great distances through collaborative projects. Casey Hales is not one of those educators. Casey has found a wonderfully simple way to use blogging as a collaborative writing tool between students in his classroom and students in a classroom in Nebraska. The writer...

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Do computers really boost student achievement?

Apr 26, 2006 by

Last week USA Today published an article presenting research which questions whether putting computers and laptops in front of students actually increases achievement. It’s no secret, according to the article, that laptops for students are “political gold” when it comes to politicians wanting to show they support education. However, studies that are now being conducted show mixed results for the benefits of computers for every student. “About 37% of the children say they stare at the screens for more than three hours a day; a few report more than five hours a day. Parents help kids with homework more often and students’ grades benefit slightly, but teachers report more classroom distractions as students check e-mail. And students actually feel distracted: In the first year, their grade-point averages rose modestly, but when Lei and a colleague asked them to estimate their GPAs, students actually believed they dropped.” –Greg Toppo, USA...

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Collaborative Note Taking

Apr 24, 2006 by

I know that I’ve discussed the possibility of students taking and working on notes in a collaborative effort before, but after a quick search I realized that I hadn’t yet blogged about the possibilities of students using technology to help one another focus on key points and note taking skills. The idea has been floating around my head for some time and was brought to my attention last Friday when I decided to let my students share the notes they had taken on our recent reading of ancient Rome. Using simple categories such as Religion, Technology, Government, Literature, etc. I had them place any notes that they had taken up on the white board.  I then pointed out the key points that would be on the chapter test and let them decide which of the notes they would “take” for their own, or possibly edit their own notes to...

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Personalized Weather Watching

Apr 19, 2006 by

In my infinite brilliance naivity, I had my students chart the current weather conditions at a certain time each day since we got back from Spring Break, thinking I could get them engaged by tracking a multitude of weather data they hadn’t been exposed to before. Everday at a given time they were to go to the site for a local weather station and collect a few pieces of data, then go to and collect some more data, only to visit to collect the final pieces of data. I thought that by using a number of different sites they would grow more accustomed to collecting data and information from multiple sources. While they did get used to using multiple sources of information (something that I hope to parlay into general internet research before the end of the year) I found that many of them treated the task...

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Search the Thesaurus Visually

Apr 18, 2006 by

For those that read the forum, you’ve probably noticed the recent entry about the Visual Thesaurus by Steve, one of our active new members that attended the MACUL session. Thanks Steve (aka falconphysics) for providing the link to this wonderful tool. I played with the thesaurus all day yesterday before school, during breaks, and after my tutoring session in the afternoon. Although my experience with the thesaurus is limited, several thoughts on how to use this tool in the classroom came to mind. The simplest use is perhaps just having the ability for learning or struggling readers to be able to hear words pronounced by clicking on them. However, a lot of the power of this tool comes from not just the ability to easily find synonyms, but also to explore other relationships and associations between the words. The connected “web” design allows words to be connected based on...

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FYI – The students are grading you!

Apr 12, 2006 by

Much hullabaloo has been made in recent months about the unadulterated, privacy-be-forgotten, and questionable use of MySpace by students, especially teenage students. In an era when older generations are consumed with the fears of identity theft and stolen credit information, students are apparently “bearing all” on their MySpace home pages, allowing every stranger, stalker, and predator on the internet to easily dig through their personal lives. Now, I know that not all students are using MySpace to unwittingly make themselves a prime target for online predators, and not all students are posting embarrassing and compromising information in a very public place; the internet. In fact, the honesty of MySpace translates very nicely into several other sites on the web, including a quite popular site that allows students (and parents) to rate their teachers online. is a unique site that encourages those traditionally ignored (students) to join the public...

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