Teaching Safari

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Needing Some Inspiration?

If you are a teacher, then you know how dreadful August 1st can be. It means that the start of school is later this month. Many of us are just getting into this "summer vacation thing" and don't want to think about planning lessons, decorating classrooms, and attending teacher institutes. For those of that need some extra inspiration and motivation, I have some ideas.

If you haven't already read The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator's Rules for DIscovering the Successful Student in Every Child by Ron Clark, I suggest you immediately drive yourself over to your nearest bookstore or library and pick up a copy. It is a relatively small book, but it has a lot of sweet, inspiring stories from the point of view of a new teacher in some tough schools. Clark is a great story-teller--he has a wonderful way with words.

His newest book is called The Excellent 11: Qualities Teachers and Parents Use to Motivate, Inspire, and Educate Children. I have just started it, so I cannot yet comment on it. But if it is anything like his previous book, it will change the way I approach teaching.

I am even more excited to tell you that there is a tv movie about him called "The Ron Clark Story" that is set to air on TNT Sunday, August 13, 2006 at 7:00 p.m. CST. It stars Matthew Perry and is already getting some great reviews.

I hope you find Ron Clark as inspiring as I have.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Reconnected...Or am I?

I have returned from vacation after nearly two weeks without internet access. Okay, that is not entirely true, because I did have 30 minutes of access at a local library--just enough time to check my email and read a few blogs--just enough time to realize that I was not missing as much as I thought I was.

Truthfully, being without internet access was not all that bad. I thought I would really miss connecting with people via email, blogs, and the DEN discussion boards. In reality, I did not. Being without internet access forced me (thankfully) to connect with the family and friends around me via conversations around the campfire and games of dominoes and Rumikub.

What I did miss, however, was the instant access to information. I had not realized how much I rely on my laptop and high-speed connection at home to access answers to general questions that come up each day.

For example, during my vacation one day we were trying to plan our daily activities. Usually, I would jump online and check the latest radar image to see if the weather would cooperate with our plans. Since this was not an option in the northwoods of Wisconsin, we had to trust the local weatherpeople.

Now I am home with a high-speed connection and finding myself online quite a bit. I need to be careful with this to be sure my reconnection to the online world does not disconnect me to the real world.

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Going Truly "Wireless"

In a few hours I will be leaving for vacation in Northern Wisconsin where there is no high-speed Internet like I am used to. In fact, there aren't even phone lines to use the extremely slow dial-up services. Therefore, I will be truly "wireless"--without Internet access. Eek!!

Logging on daily to read email and the blog posts in my aggregator have become such a way of life for me that I'm worried I will experience Internet withdrawal or, more specifically, "connectivity withdrawal." I've scouted out the hot spots where I will be staying, and there are only 2 in a 20-mile radius!

Well, I'm hoping to use the down time to catch up on reading some "real" books and magazines that have been thrown to the side during the school year.

Happy 4th of July to all!

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Friday, June 30, 2006

Returning to "Normal" Life


I just spent the last 5 days at Discovery Education's Midwest Regional Institute in Chicago with an incredible group of people. There were over 50 Discovery Educators, 4 Regional DEN Managers, and several well-known guest speakers: Hall Davidson, Will Richardson, and Steve Dembo. The main topic of the institute was digital storytelling, but we also learned about several Web2.0 applications: blogging, podcasting, wikis, social bookmarking, flickr, and more.

It was such an incredible time to network, share, and collaborate with other like-minded educators interested in technology integration. It was an extraordinary experience that I will not soon forget.

Now I am back at home, however, and must return to "normal" life. What I mean by that is the life where I don't have anyone to talk to about such things as my photostream in flickr or the RSS feeds that I've subscribed to or my jealousy at the people lucky enough to attend NECC. Most people I come into contact daily, even those I work with in my school, would think the preceeding sentence was a foreign language.

Well, at least I have the DEN to keep in touch with those educators who can appreciate my "geekiness" for what its worth!

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Using Quia in the Classroom

Do you use Quia? If you have not heard of it, you may want to explore using it in your classroom. I have been using the site for four years now and my students love it!

The site allows teachers to create subject-specific games and activities with their easy-to-use templates. What makes it so dynamic is the sharing of activities that goes on among users of the site. Most of the time I don't have to create a game from scratch, because there is already one available that I can "tweak" to my liking to put on my own Quia site.

If you are interested in signing up for a free 30-day trial, I would ask that you use my sign-in page at http://www.quia.com/trial/ee99.html or use my affiliate code EE99 when signing up your account. Doing so will give you some of my sample activities and give me credit for your referral. Thank you so much and enjoy!

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Discovery Educator Network Midwest Regional Institute


It has been a few weeks since my last entry, but only because I didn't feel like I had much to say. Today, however, there is probably too much to say. My mind is swimming in so many thoughts, ideas, reflections, etc. because I am at the Discovery Educator Network's 1st Annual Midwest Regional Summer Institute in Chicago.

I am sitting in a presentation right now with Will Richardson discussing Web2.0 and where the field of education is headed. He is such a fascinating presenter that if you ever get the chance to hear him speak, it is definitely worth it. If you don't get that opportunity, then I highly recommend reading his book and/or his blog.

I'll post more later...We've got a break right now and I need to get up and stretch!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Testing the Flock Browser

Based on the recommendation of Will Richardson, I am trying out Flock as an Internet web browswer. I am typing this right from the Flock interface without having to log into my Blogger account. We'll see how well it works. If I understand Will correctly, I should also be able to import my feeds from my Bloglines account so I could see those, also, from the Flock interface. That would be pretty cool. (I'm pretty new to all this Web 2.0 stuff, so if I just misused some vocabulary words, forgive me.)

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Random Thoughts on Blogging

I'm new to blogging, so I have some random thoughts and questions running through my mind about the whole process.

How do people tag their blog entries? I use Bloglines as my aggregrator and whenever I read the post of other bloggers like David Warlick, Anne Davis, Will Richardson, and Steve Dembo, they all have tags attached to their posts. I need to learn how this is done. I suppose it is probably explained in Will's recent book and I should have looked before I posed the question. Oh well...

I am also wondering how one becomes an effective blogger. For example, I don't want to have a blog that is merely a diary of my day. I want to have a blog that is thoughtful, insightful, and reflective. So how do you accomplish that? How do you know what to blog about that will encourage conversation with other like-minded people? And how do you get those like-minded people to view your blog? In other words, how do you create an audience in the blogosphere.

Hopefully many of these ponderings will become more clear when I attend the Discovery Midwest Summer Institute in Chicago, June 25-29. I was one of fifty educators from the region and one of thirteen from Illinois selected to attend this digital media workshop and I am really looking foward to hearing in person Hall Davidson and Will Richardson. I should definitely have something worthy of blogging after five days spent with other enthusiastic educators.