Online Learning… Will the future of teaching take place in cyberspace?

After doing a bit of research, I discovered that online learning is both revered and reviled. eLEarning may be the future of education with many positives to learning online, however, there are several issues that cause concern. Check out my VoiceThread to learn more.


Smilebox… Great Slideshow Tool!

Recently, for my McDaniel College graduate class, I researched and reviewed some online tools I discovered via the Cool Tools for Schools Wiki. One tool I really liked is called Smilebox. Smilebox appealed to me from the beginning due its ease of use and scrapbook-esque appearance. Once I gave it a try, I immediately realized it would be a perfect tool for my 6th Grade Geography students to use during an assignment I call, “Road Trip!”. After a unit about East Africa, my students create an itinerary for a road trip to an assigned country in East Africa. I provide them with online resources in a folder within Google Apps including maps of the region (physical, political, and climate) and travel sites for different countries. They use the information to decide where they would like to visit, what to pack, what kind of rental vehicle they might need, and what they would eat. This year, my students created a paper poster to share with the class the itinerary they created for their road trip. Next time, by using Smilebox instead of paper, my students could demonstrate their knowledge of the climate, topography, and culture of their country in a fun, colorful, and creative way. Always engaging!

Here’s a link to an example of a Smilebox album for the Road Trip! activity. Make sure you have your sound on as music is one of the customizable options.

Here’s a a link to my screencast about how to use Smilebox. Please excuse the occasional dog barking in the background! Or, if you prefer, here’s a link to my script.


Teacher Blogs… Inspiration!

I am a HUGE Pinterest fan. I often find myself spending hours scrolling through someone’s board in fascination of what they have accumulated. Teacher blogs are very similar. I just spent several hours clicking on link after link to different teacher blogs filled with creative ideas for all grade levels. However, as I am a 6th grade teacher, the middle grade blogs struck a chord with me. It is important as professionals to continue to evolve and look for new ideas. Teacher blogs are the ultimate source of ideas and inspiration.

Upside Down Education… Amanda Dykes

Ms. Dykes is a technology coach who believes that technology integration increases student learning. With her extensive knowledge of Web 2.0 tools, Ms. Dykes has become an expert on using social networking in the classroom and building a professional network.

One of my favorite posts by Ms. Dykes can be found here.  In this blog post, Ms. Dykes describes what it is like to be live with ADHD. As someone with ADHD herself, she certainly seems to know what she is talking about! I find that I may have a bit more sympathy for those in this situation now, and will hopefully be more patient.

I find this blog to be very well written – straightforward, and honest. In this post, Who do you Work For?, Ms. Dykes asks teachers to remember who they are working for… students or themselves? We should look for opportunities to make at least one child’s day easier, or “give them the chance for an ah-ha moment,” by integrating new technologies in our classrooms. This is why I became a teacher (again).

Connect, Create, Inspire…. David Grossman

David Grossman posts frequently about his own perspective on teacher issues as well as his personal reflections about events that occur during his day.

One of my favorite posts, titled My Blue Ninja ,Mr. Grossman reflects upon a gift one of his students gave him – a small, action figure of a blue ninja. Mr. Grossman recognizes that teachers do not frequently receive tokens of appreciation from students that are authentic, meaningful gifts. This specific student appreciated Mr. Grossman and wanted to share something that was special to him – a small, plastic blue ninja of little monetary value, yet it is a priceless reminder of the positive impact a teacher had on a student. To quote Mr. Grossman, “We’re not perfect, and we’ve got a long way to go, but we are making a difference – we do matter.” This is important to remember!

Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension… Pernille Ripp

While browsing through a plethora of middle school teacher blogs, I came across a blog that began with the question, “What do we do when what we do is still not enough?” I was intrigued by the writer right from the beginning. This is one question every teacher has asked themselves and always struggle to answer. Mrs. Ripp poses this question in order to garner responses from the education community as she had just experienced a frustrating day (month?) at school and needed to hear some words of encouragement. The responses point to one of the single best reasons to have a blog – a blog creates a community of like-minded people who can help each other. I highly suggest reading the comments!

An additional post that I enjoyed, Why Do We Hold Students to Higher Expectations than Adults?”, reminded me that students are just that – students. In addition, they are human and cannot be perfect every day. Students cannot be expected to be 100% engaged and ready to learn every single hour of every single day. Mrs. Ripp reminds the reader that it is not always a reflection on what is happening in the class, but could be because they just are “done” for the day. Don’t take it personally!

I highly suggest reading Mrs. Ripp’s posts as she takes time to voice the concerns that many teachers have on a daily basis. I left her page feeling validated and ready to start another day forming the minds of our future.

Librarian Blogs… The source!

I found several great librarian blogs this week and thought I would share them with you. I felt almost as if I was partaking in an online scavenger hunt for great library ideas. Each blog I found and enjoyed led me to another one, and then another, and then another! Time flew by. When I looked at the clock two hours had gone by!

I discovered that different blogs had different goals; some wanted to share information about books they recommended, some wanted to share tech tips, some both. Other blogs spoke to fellow LMS or LMS candidates while others targeted their students. Whomever the intended audience was, the blogs shared valuable information and inspired me to look for new, creative ways to encourage reading and utilize technology.

I discovered that a blog is an amazing tool to increase student engagement, communicate with students, staff, and families, as well as to promote your media center or classroom. Once students or parents subscribe to a blog, they receive email notifications of any updates including announcements and homework assignments. For these reasons, I am considering switching to a blog instead of a class webpage. This will be a fun summer activity!

Two of the following featured blogs share great ideas about how to integrate technology in the media center and are sources of inspiration for readers. The third blog not only shares interesting techno tips, but also book trailers and recommendations to inspire even the pickiest reader. All three blogs feature creative LMS doing what they do best – engaging students.

The Adventures of Library Girl… Jennifer LaGarde:

This past November, I attended the 2014 MASL Conference and was truly inspired by the Keynote Speaker, Jennifer LaGarde. During her speech, Ms. LaGarde referenced her blog several times and, recently, I visited the site. Due to her great sense of humor, I anticipated that her blog would be quirky and highly entertaining. I was not disappointed! While reading her posts, I could hear her North Carolina southern drawl in my head and almost felt her sunny smile. Ms. LaGarde addresses several issues on her blog, however her most recent post was about her goals for this school year. She shared how she asked the faculty and staff in the building one question , “What would it take to make you see bringing students to the library as good use of your instructional time?” Based on the responses, Ms. LaGarde sorted the responses into categories and used this input to determine her path for the school year. Very inspiring! Here’s a link to this specific post.

My only disappointment was that Ms. LaGarde has not posted on her blog since September 2014. However, it appears that she hosts a webcast called EdGeekCast that I will definitely take some time to check out one of these days. I like how Ms. LaGarde included a “Live Traffic Feed” to show where people visited from. By including this on her blog it was evident that she has a global internet presence and seeks to make connections with other LMS. Every post on her blog attempts to educate and inspire other LMS to continue being the best professional they can be.

Bulldog Reader Blog: bridging books, lessons and technology… Mrs. Hembree

Mrs. Hembree’s blog, Bulldog Reader Blog: bridging books, lessons, and technology is a finalist in eduBlog’s Best Library/Librarian Blog of 2015. The Bulldog Blog definitely deserves the nomination. On her blog, Mrs. Hembree creates her own book trailers, links with libraries around the world, looks for opportunities to make the world a better place, and encourages students to learn to code. As of March 20th, 2015, Mrs. Hembree has had 197,370 visitors from around the world. Very impressive!

Mrs. Hembree also includes several inspiring ideas for fellow LMS in her blog even though the blog is intended for student reference. For example, there is a QR Code link to student created trailers for books, links to Web 2.0 tools that will prove extremely useful one day, as well as links to classroom blogs around the world. In this post from February 7th, 2015, Mrs. Hembree shared her Valentine’s Day display titled Love Your Library Month. I love the idea behind the display as it suggests that the readers should “go on a blind date” with a book. The books in the display are wrapped in red paper and patrons are supposed to borrow a book and give it a try without knowing what it is. What a cool idea! Also, in this post from June 2014, Mrs. Hembree discusses a recent Skype event where she and her first grade students Skyped with a friend in San Francisco about their experiences diving in relation to their unit on Oceans. What a great idea!

The Darling Librarian… Gwyneth Jones

A little closer to home, I discovered Gwyneth Jones’ blog, The Darling Librarian. Ms. Jones is a LMS at Murray Hill Middle School here in Howard County, Maryland. Almost like the scene from Elf where Buddy the Elf exclaims, “Santa Clause?!?!? I know him!” I met Gwyneth Jones at a Professional Development Day a few years ago. I felt like i had met Library Royalty! Her blog is amazing and, in person, Ms. Jones is just as inspiring. Check out this post from March 10th about encouraging LMS to create a school Instagram account in order to demonstrate to students the need to be positive digital citizens.

Ms. Jones is a Professional Digital Footprint specialist – if such a thing exists. She is the ultimate online marketing specialist. When I Googled her name, there were multiple pages of results with links to her blogs, her Twitter account, and her SlideShare channel among others. Everything appeared very professional and recent. I highly recommend you check it out!

My only criticism with Ms. Jones’ blog is that it is difficult to find archived entries. I wanted to read some of her old posts and found them difficult to find. I eventually clicked around and found them buried on a separate page. I also explored her school library blog page at this link. She has a lot of great resources for her students in this blog as well as contests and images from the media.

Happy Blogging!