Thursday, November 8

Natick Technology Day 2012

Kudos to Natick Public Schools for hosting the recent Natick Technology Day 2012 event: what a valuable in-service day it was! As an added bonus for me, out-of-district educators were also invited to attend – the best invitation that I’ve had in a long time!
According to the conference web site, “The Natick Technology Conference was initiated in 2009 with the goal of supporting the effective integration of technology to enhance learning opportunities and outcomes for students. Since that time the conference has evolved and grown into an amazing professional learning experience for Natick teachers. The success of the conference prompted Natick to open its doors to other districts for the 2012 conference.”
Participants were offered upwards to 50 technology related workshops delivered during two 90-minute sessions. Choosing which workshops to attend was a difficult decision for this technology geek as the offerings were all great opportunities to learn, collaborate and network from and with many dedicated educators.
After lunch, the attendees were given the opportunity to visit the 60 Technology in Action showcases. Held in the school’s gym, students and teachers (from Natick Public Schools) demonstrated their technology skills by showing us how they use such tools (and apps) as iMove, iPhoto, Garage Band, Google Docs, Pages, and Scratch, just to name a few. We were able to view student Podcasts, blogs, web sites, Google Doc projects and numerous other, very impressive projects. I was equally impressed with the life-size robot!
Thanks again to Natick Public Schools for organizing a very successful Technology Conference and thanks for the invite!
If you’d like to read more about the technology conference, you can follow them on Twitter @: @NatickTech    Hashtag #NT12

Friday, October 26

Travis Allen: The 21st Century Student

I was fortunate to have been able to attend the MassCue Technology Conference at Gillette Stadium earlier this week.  While I didn't experience any "Tom Brady sightings", it was a memorable conference nonetheless. I have pages of notes (digital of course) that I need to review and organize to share with you in a future post. For now, I’d like to rave about one of the keynote speakers that addressed the crowd of 1,800 captivated educators. Rarely have I ever been impressed by a keynote speaker but this college student (yes, he is quite young) was amazingly blunt, enthusiastic, creative, smart, etc.; I want to adopt him.

Travis Allen is currently a junior at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.  Frustrated by the disconnect between students and schools (fueled when his teacher told him that his smart phone was not an educational device), he started his own company, The iSchool Initiative, while still in high school. According to Allen, social media has given him and his generation "a voice." He went on to say that they are digital learners, and that schools, often working on an outdated-antiquated model, are killing their students’ creativity.  He emphasized that for technology integration to be successful in schools, three things must be in place; mindset, infrastructure and of course, funding.  Allen questions why schools spend money on books explaining that he has used eBooks throughout his college career. What I really liked about Allen was that he isn’t just complaining; he's proactive in his passion to eliminate the disconnect between students and schools.

I encourage you to read more on Travis Allen and his initiatives afterall, he speaks for the generation of students that sit in our classrooms; our digital natives.

Thursday, October 18

Getting Social With Edmodo

Edmodo is a social networking tool designed specifically for educators. Using Edmodo, educators can easily connect with other like-interested educators to collaborate, share ideas, and resources. Edmodo can also be used by teachers to engage their students in meaningful-online discussions.

For those of you at DS that would like to experience what Edmodo is all about, please be sure to create a "Teacher" account ( ) and join us on the Experience Edmodo discussion forum. Please refer back to my email (on HS News) for the GROUP CODE that you'll need to join the Experience Edmodo group. (For security purposes I did not include it within this post.) If you're having difficulty with this please let me know.

Linda Lannon, Spanish teacher and Department Head of the World Language Department at DSHS, has used Edmodo with several of her classes. Below, you will find a brief write up by Linda as she shares with us her experience using Edmodo.

This past summer, I used Edmodo to administer and assess the AP Spanish Language summer reading and listening assignments.  I posted the assignments which were to read an article or listen to a podcast (both for which I provided links).  Students were required to comment about the articles and specifically answer questions that I had posted.  They were then required to comment on two of their classmates' postings. 

It was an excellent way to engage all students and allowed students to pick and choose the articles that most interested them.  I gave them ten options from which they had to choose six to complete.  Students who are normally quiet in the classroom had a voice and appeared comfortable participating in the online forum, as evidenced by the quantity and quality of their posts.  The only problem I found with Edmodo is that once the students completed what was required of them, they did not return to the site to read what others had posted after them.  I would include that task in the future to mirror other online forums (fora).

For assessments, I used a rubric similar to one used by the College Board for writing tasks.  It consisted of three categories:  Task Completion, Topic Development and Language Use.

I also used Edmodo this year for several homework assignments that required students to post their opinions.  I also made a survey using Edmodo. The next task that I’d like to investigate is how to use Edmodo to create (online) quizzes.

In addition, I’ve “joined” an Edmodo group of Foreign Language Dept. Heads in Eastern Mass for sharing documents, insights, and websites.

Tuesday, September 18

Twitter: Communicate and Collaborate

I'm pretty excited about this week’s post as it has to do with one of my favorite social networking tools, Twitter. Feared by many educators almost as much as Facebook, Twitter is blocked by many school districts, including DS (I work on all my Twitter stuff from home).  Many people think that Twitter is a huge waste of time - just another way to stay in tune with the antics of celebrities and sports figures. I admit that I do enjoy trying to “keep up” with the Kardashians; they are after all, very entertaining! However, entertainment aside, Twitter can be a very useful tool for students and educators to communicate easily and effectively.
Last year, my son’s math teacher posted her homework assignments on Twitter making it impossible for my son and his classmates to claim that they didn’t know what they were supposed to do.  I was at his school the other day and I saw this sign posted in the guidance area informing the students where to follow them on Twitter – way to go NHS!  

Another notable use of Twitter is that it enables like-interested educators (from anywhere around the world) to collaborate with one another fairly effortlessly.  It's hard for many of us to imagine how anything posted in 140 characters or less can be useful. However, that is precisely what makes Twitter so appealing; unlike this post, there's little room for fluff!

Deciding to start using Twitter can be a bit frightening. After all, what are you possibly going to Tweet about? My suggestion is to not worry about what you're going to say. Instead, start off real simple and just follow a few frequent-tweeting educators (such as: Gregory Kulowiec, KathySchrock, Dan Callahan, Patrick Larkin and Tom Daccord).  Once you get a sense of what other educators are tweeting about you’ll become more comfortable working with this social networking tool. In addition, follow other individuals, or organizations that you find interesting (such as: MTA, WSJ, NYTimes and Edutopia) and perhaps a favorite politician, a sports figure, or even a Kardashian or two.

There are plenty of Twitter articles out on the web for you to get information as to how, why, and what to tweet. I’m not going to rehash all of this here but I have provided you with web based resources at the end of this post that cover those issues . What I do want to cover however is security.  Here are a few suggestions to protect yourself and your reputation if you do decide to use Twitter:

1)   Create separate Twitter accounts
a.   Professional Account: Use this account to collaborate with your colleagues and other like-interested educators
b.   Personal Account: Use this account to communicate with your friends and family etc.
c.   Student/School Account: Use this account to communicate with your students, their parents or guardians, and the school community.

2)   Following Students on Their Twitter Accounts:
a.   Don’t do it!
b.   Don’t take the risk of reading a student’s tweet that might have serious implications (perhaps something that needs to be reported to school or law officials).

3)   Allowing Students (and their parents/guardians) to follow you on Twitter
a.   Don’t allow it unless it is an account that you have established to communicate only with your students, their parents or guardians! Be sure to save your security settings so that people cannot automatically follow you.
b.   Making use of hashtags (#) to direct your tweets to your intended audience is a safe and effective way to use Twitter to communicate.  Using hashtags in tweets allows communication without the need for teachers to follow students or for students to follow teachers. Students would be instructed by their teachers to search for a particular hashtag (that is related to their class) to get access to all of the class tweets. Hashtags are a great way to organize (and search for) tweets. For example, if I were to tweet a reminder to my students in my 10th grade English class (B Block) to study for a test, my tweet (and hashtag) might look like this:
  Reminder test on Friday Romeo&Juliet – Study! #eng10B

More on Hashtags
There are numerous education related “chat rooms” accessible in Twitter by using hashtags.  For example, there are Twitter chats for World Language: #langchat, Education: #edchat, Social Studies: #sschat, Science: #scichat. The list of educational “hashtags is very extensive; the odds are that you can find one that you will find useful. By entering the name of a hashtag at the end of the Tweetchat web address (, you can view Twitter posts/tweets from any particular chat (in this case, I was viewing the langchat chat room). I followed #olympics this past summer to stay informed about the Olympic games. You don't need a twitter account to view the tweets/posts in chat rooms, but you do need an account to contribute.

Resources on How and Why to Use Twitter in Education
Twelve Reasons to get Your School district Tweeting This Summer Getting Smart: 8 Social Media Strategies for Your Classroom
Shorten your URLs (web addresses)
Teachers Teaching Teachers, on Twitter: Q. and A. on ‘Edchats’

100 Ways to Teach with Twitter 
Emerging EdTech: Twitter (Microblogging)

As you can see, Twitter is much more than just following celebrities and sports figures; it really does have its place in education.

Tuesday, August 28

Social Bookmarking with Diigo

With so many fabulous Web2.0 tools available to educators, I had a difficult time deciding which one to include for discussion on this post. After much thought, I settled on a tool called, Diigo. Diigo, which stands for Digest of Internet Information, Groups, and Other Stuff, is a social bookmarking tool that allows users to bookmark web sites and to “tag” each site according to the site’s content. Users can highlight important text within a bookmarked web site and also include Sticky Notes (annotations). There are many features about Diigo that I find to be very useful, the most notable of which is that once you bookmark your sites in Diigo, they are available to you on any computer that has Internet access.  In addition, you can share your library with your colleagues – what a great tool for collaboration! Diigo also has a feature called Groups where a user can invite other users to contribute to a Group’s web resources. This is a great idea for use in the classroom where students can all contribute to the pool of web resources as well as to comment on those resources. Again, a great tool for collaborating and sharing! If this sounds like something that you’d like to learn more about, go to and register for a free Diigo Educator account. Feel free to visit my Diigo library to see how this application can be used. If any of my DSHS colleagues would like some help setting up an account and learning how to use Diigo, please let me know. 

Still want to learn more about Diigo? Here's a short video that will highlight some of Diigo's features.

Friday, June 15

I've Taken the Plunge!

Tagul Word Cloud
I’ve been blogging for a few years now but I honestly have to say that I’m new to blogging. Certainly a contradiction but let me explain. As a technology teacher, I’ve been teaching my students the mechanics of blogging for several years now. I’ve coached many students on the technical aspects of blogging in my Web Design course. They’ve learned how to write posts that are robust and interesting and to respond with comments on their classmates’ blogs that are thoughtful and respectful. I’m always amazed at how quickly they learn to work successfully with new technology.  My instructions for the blogging assignment are all posted on my class blog. I’ll take this opportunity to pat myself on the back; it really is a pretty good assignment. However, now I need to be somewhat humble as I admit that while my class blog is very effective at delivering instruction on how to create a blog, it really has nothing to do with sharing ideas, sharing thoughts or reflection. I realized this fact a while ago and made it my goal last winter vacation (when I was supposedly going to have a lot of extra time) to start a “real” blog. I had the same goal for February vacation and again for April vacation. While lack of time is always an underlying issue, the real reason I haven’t started until now is that I’m a bit nervous about finding something interesting to say on a consistent basis. So here I am, sitting at my desk in my windowless office after a long day at work finally drafting my first post. So, I’ve “jumped into the fire”, “set off on my maiden voyage”, “taken the plunge”; however I say it, I’ve finally started. Wish me luck as I venture in to the world of blogging. I hope to share and contribute ideas and experiences that will be useful and perhaps at times, entertaining. Thanks to Nancy C. whose blog I enjoy following and who has inspired me to "take the plunge."