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Seedlings: Growing Through Professional and Personal Learning Communities and Networks

Image from Seedling Website

Having been in education for over 32 years one might think I had finally learned all I could!  While 32 years and three degrees  may seem like a lot, I am still a Seedling, and am constantly learning from my on-line professional community/network!  I owe a great deal to all of the professional learning communities I have been a member of through out my career. Most recently my journey has taken me to PLC’s in the on-line world. Thus, the reason for this post. Please enjoy, reflect, and take some action. As always feel free to follow me on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/mjgormans) and please join me at my 21centuryedtech Wiki, a place of growing resources for educational transformation in the 21st century! Enjoy the post  – Mike (mgorman@sacs.k12.in.us)

Learning Communities/Networks have extended beyond individual schools and now allow us to connect with educators through out the world. It is amazing that it is possible, at times, to  feel greater support from the virtual on-line world then the one that exists in our real-world concrete buildings. It even becomes more awesome when we understand that the virtual-online world is just as real, and at times more powerful!  We really do live in a wonderful day and age. One that allows all of to share and grow in immence ways, while enabling our students to become the very best .

From time to time I would like to visit some professional learning communities/networks in my blog posts. This will be my first attempt and I invite you to  take a virtual trip to the state of Maine.  Here, you will find an outstanding group of educators that not only understand this concept, but practice it on a daily basis. Please meet, Bob Sprankle, Cheryl Oaks, and Alice Barr who are facilitaters of a wonderful Professional Learning Community called Seedlings. (Never thought I would get you there, did you?) This community is unique due to its emphasis on a growing library of Podcasts. Upon entering the site you will be drawn first  to this diverse collection of interviews and insights. It is these Podcats that seem to take center stage at Seedlings. Airing Thursday nights at 7:30 PM EST  and archived weekly, the Podcasts allow a time for educators to listen to other educators. While you will find yourself reflecting, dreaming, and planning,  be sure to participate in  the backchannel chat!  Past talks this year have included topics on educational transformation, technology, blogging, personal learning communities,  and even parent/teacher/students conferences . Most recently, I enjoyed listening to  Richard Byrne talk about the enthusiastic work he puts in to his amazing  Freetech4teachers blog.  These podcats are an obvious reason that Seedlings was  nominated for “Best Use of Audio” by Edubloggers in 2009. While the podcasts are the highlight, be sure to visit the other areas. You will find some videos for both professional development and reflection. There are ideas for book readings, some audio book downloads, and even places to start your own book group!  Make sure you take note of the “Geek of the Week” which includes awesome content the facilitators and others have found on their individual web journeys each week.  Most of all, Seedlings is an outstanding  professional learning community that allows you to grow, reflect, and network in the confines of your own home, or from anywhere!  The facilitaors also host oustanding blogs outside of Seedlings  and these blogs are certainly worth a visit at  Bobsprankle.com, Alicebarr.org, and Cheryloakes.com. You will walk away with some neat insight and plenty to reflect upon. Take a moment and drop by the Seedling Community, listen to an archived podcast!  Better yet, join these wonderful people in Maine along with others around the world for a live session each Thursday at 7:30 PM EST. I know I will continue to be a Seedling because I really do  enjoy the proccess of growing and learning. It is  much better then being a full grown tree!

Thank you for taking this virtual trip to Maine, a state I still need to visit in the real world! I encourage you to become part of a professional learning community!  Make it happen in your building, while also finding a nurturing place to grow with others on-line.  If you would like to share  aspecial learning community please repond or comment so that we can all visit. It really is about learning from others!  As always ,I invite your follow on twitter http://www.twitter.com/mjgormans), I will return the favor and we can learn from one another. Also, please join me at my 21centuryedtech Wiki, a place of growing resources for educational transformation in the 21st century!  Have a great week! – Mike

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Explore GPS and GIS In Engaging STEM Related PBL Activities : Free Resources And Site License

 


Give a kid a GPS and allow them to enthusiastically explore the world outdoors, introduce them to GIS and engage them with a world of relevant data, maps and information. We are all aware of of Google Maps, but are you aware of ESRI and Arcview? It is time to introduce your students to one of the fastest growing  job sectors in the world. This mid week post offers you an opportunity to discover free resources, inspire students using awesome activities,  and do a PBL project on your community while getting a free site license in return. As always fee free to visit me at my 21ceturyedtech Wiki and follow me on twitter @mjgormans. I will do the same and we can learn from each other. – Mike (mgorman@sacs.k12.in.us)

Even before  there was Google Earth, there was a company called ESRI (Environment Systems Research Institute) based in Redlands, California. This company still exists and is not only a leader in GIS application but is also dedicated to K12 education. GIS (Geopgraphic Information Systems) can be integrated in science and social studies, as well as in mathematics and art/design. It also connects with GPS (Global Positioning Systems) to provide engaging adventures for students. GIS provides a foundation for interdisciplinary projects that allow for connections to the real world. Working with GIS also allows today’s students to develop 21st Century skills relating to computer literacy, problem solving, communication, collaboration, and presentation. Using GIS opens the doors to occupational fields that are growing and in demand for students upon completion of their schooling. Most resources from ESRI are either free, very low cost, or available through an ESRI grant for K12 educators and students.

You will find  abundant resources of materials at the ESRI Main K12 Page  in education This web page provides a format that educators can use to collaborate and share lessons with techniques that are successful. Check out this listing of over 300 lessons available for download using ESRI software. Be sure to download  a copy of Arc View for use in education

Most recently I came across four books (Our World GIS Education ) that were developed for K12 education. These books are available through ESRI at a retail price of about $50.00 each.These same books can be found at Amazon about $10.00 cheaper. The books do an excellent job of providing teachers with lessons and units that are based on twenty-first century skills and project based learning. They also include two CD in each book. One CD gives free access to necessary ESRI software for 365 days on up to 50 machines. After the 365 days schools can buy a site license for the entire school (about $500.00) or, better yet, engage students in an activity that provides the license for free. The other CD provides all lessons and support files for the book in a digital format. Our World GIS Education Books is the place to find these four books that were winners of the 2008 Geography Excellence in Media (GEM) Awards by The National Council for Geographic Education. Books are presented as levels going from level 1-4. This site provides a look at each book including a description along with links to Workbook Support, Teacher Resources, and Podcast with Authors. Also you must scan Taking a Look Inside which includes the  Table of Contents and the First Three Chapters, and, of course, a link to buy the book. Information links for each book follows along with descriptions from website.
Thinking Spatially Using GIS – provides geographic tools–maps, geographic data, and GIS–to teach young students a basic understanding of spatial concepts, pattern recognition, and map trends analysis.
Mapping Our World Using GIS – encourages students to acquire and continue building broad-based problem-solving skills using geospatial technology.
Analyzing Our World Using GIS – helps educators use GIS technology and geographic data to promote inquiry-based learning among students studying world geography and other disciplines. This book combines open-ended geospatial exploration opportunities with the structure of nationally standardized course content, classroom activities, teacher notes, student handouts, and assessments.
Making Spatial Decisions Using GIS – encourage the use of GIS in solving problems and making decisions. The lessons in this textbook build on the rich array of GIS tools available, enabling students to perform sophisticated analyses in a variety of content areas. This book encourages readers to make decisions and ultimately create their own analysis to investigate and answer based on real-world concerns.

How about a free site license from ESRI? Visit the ESRI Community Mapping Page and get your students involved. On this page you will learn more about Community Atlas and the grant program, have an opportunity to visit winning Model Projects from each year, download the Community Atlas instruction pages and model projects, explore all student projects, and submit or edit your project.

This was an enjoyable post for me to write. In fact I recieved some of my first training using GIS and GPS from Bob Kolvoord at James Madison University in the Project Vism (Visualization in Science and Math) through a grant with the NSF. Bob is one of the authors in Book Four, Making Spatial Decisions Using GIS. It was Project Vism, almost ten years ago, that engaged me in finding ways to use technology as a tool. Thanks for this visit and as always feel free to reply and comment. Check out my 21centuryedtech Wiki and feel free to follow me on twitter at @mjgormans, I will return the favor! – Mike (mgormans@sacs.k12.in.us)

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Free Software To Make That Flip Video Experience Even Better!

Ever had trouble getting those flip video files into Windows Movie Maker or your preferred video editor? This midweek post of 21centuryedtech focuses on a free piece of software that really does make integrating the Flip Video camera with Windows Movie Maker easy. Outside of that, it is truly a great video and audio transfer program that has a multitude of uses in student and teacher productions of movies and podcasts! Try this and other great ideas and resources found at the 21centuryedtech Wiki! As always follow me at www.twitter.com/mjgormans – Mike (mgorman@sacs.k12.in.us)

It really is time to do a double flip for your Flip video camera as you find ways to integrate with free Windows Movie Maker. I recently purchased 30 Flip Video Camera for student use!  They have been a hit as have the movies that students have produced. While others may not, I did experience problems with the Flip Software (too simplistic) and using the video files on various computers and networks. I did a triple flip when I found the free product Any Video Converter.  This powerful yet free video converter application makes video and audio conversion quick and easy. The application can clip any segments and optionally merge and sort them to make a creative movie. Even more, Any Video Converter Freeware can crop frame size to remove any unwanted area in the frame ,just like a pair of smart scissors. It can convert almost any video format:  including DivX, XviD, MOV, rm, rmvb, MPEG, VOB, DVD, WMV, AVI, MPEG-I, DVD NTSC , DVD PAL, Flash for Video (FLV), AVI Video and Customized WMV movie formats. It also supports any user defined video file format as the output including avi, mp4, wmv, swf, flv, mkv, MPEG-1 and MPEG-2, mpg (PAL or NTSC), mp3, wma, ogg, aac, wave, m4a. This means that youtube, iPod, Zune, PSP, iPhone, 3GP Phone, and MP4 player are all covered. And if that’s not enough, it is also lightning  fast, even over a network.

Now about that Flip camera integration! It really is as simple as using the Flip Video Camera as a portable drive!  Just plug the Flip Camera into the computer’s USB port. Then open up Any Video Converter. Next select Add Video. It is then simple to use the easy interface to find the drive of the Flip Video Camera . Now , open the drive and select the desired videos.

 

Once the videos are selected a selection must be made from a pulldown on the right regarding the correct output format. For Windows Movie Maker the choice is customized WMV movie. Note that there are many other formats to pick from including ones that will work on the Mac, Mobile phones (including the iPhone), Flash, and portable video players.

There is even an Output folder on the bottom of the menu with various choices. The built in default is to have the program build an Any Video Folder in the user’s My Documents Folder. This can be great for network use that automatically sends user files to the user  network folder. Since Any Video Converter  can convert multiple files quickly and easily, you and your students will be editing using Windows Movie Maker or your preferred video editing software in no time. Take a moment to explore and learn about  and the download this free and useful program. While I have described its integration with Flip Video, you will find its power something you will find other reasons to do summersalts over!

Have fun and keep coming back ,and as always visit my 21centuryedtech Wiki! – Mike  (http://www.twitter.com/mjgormans)

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It’s Free – Intel Provides An Amazing Tool To Assess 21st Century Skills

 

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” – Alvin Toffler an American futurist.

This quote found on the front page of the Intel’s Assessing Project Tool web site gives a foundation  and premise for Intel’s  free educational resource . For those trying to assess 21century skills, this site provides some practical tools and resources to answer this question. Not only does Intel provide a unique interface to construct a rubric, it includes theory, rational, best practices, and outstanding examples. It is more then an assessment tool, if used correctly it allows teacher’s to truely transform their practice using a planning process that starts with the end and involves on-going assessment. Please take a moment to read over my review and explore the links that will highlight some of the outstanding attitibutes of this site. As always, take a moment to visit my 21centuryedtech Wiki .  If you have 21century skill assessment practices to share please post a reply or send an email. I enjoy reading and make it a practice to answer each and every e-mail. – Mike (mgorman@sacs.k12.in.us)

The biggest question I get from teachers when conducting workshops on technology integration and 21st century skills remains, “How do you assess the 21st century skills?”  While it is important to make sure content standards are integrated and assessed in student projects, many times the 21st century skills are loosely incorporated and assessed . This leaves students often confused with the attempted integration of  21st century skill, resulting in a goal never achieved. Once again, as most research suggests, it is important that all projects are designed with the end in mind. The conclusion includes both content standards, and the 21st century skills that are to be acheived by students. This end, is a part of the planning process that is communicated to students in the form of a rubric. The rubric must act as a guide while students engage with the project’s on-going process.

This preparation can be time consuming for the educator, which is why I invite you to explore Intel Education’s Assessing Projects Tool. I am a long time fan of the Intel Thinking  Tools. I am just as impressed with the Assessing  Projects Tool.  Intel states, “When assessment drives instruction, students learn more and become more confident, self-directed learners. Assessing Projects helps teachers create assessments that address 21st century skills and provides strategies to make assessment an integral part of their teaching and help students understand content more deeply, think at higher levels, and become self-directed learners”.

The site overview page  gives the benefits of assessing projects, numerous references and authoritive writings,  and some outstanding assessment based websites  based on 21st century education. Learn more about the purpose of assessment, various assessments that go beyond tests, papers, and oral presentations, and how formative assessment which is continuous and ongoing promotes real achievement. Additionally, while higher-order thinking such as critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, and metacognition, can be a challenge. this tool explores methods for assessing thinking. Last, this tool explores what components are necessary for successful assessment in a school.

Intel gives you the opportunity to Try It.  Here you can try a Demo to explore the Assessment Library and examine checklists, rubrics, and scoring guides on thinking skills, processes, products, and performances. There is also a video tutorial that allows you to see how features of the Assessing Projects application work in the classroom. You can also view a great animation of the process which helps simplify the process. Explore some example project assessment forms for both the elementary and secondary level. Intel states that assessment strategies can be broken into five main categories. While not all methods within a category are needed, all categories should be included in an assessment plan. The categories included are Strategies for Gauging Student Needs ,  Strategies for Encouraging Self-Direction and Collaboration,  Strategies for Monitoring ProgressStrategies for Checking for Understanding and Encouraging Metacognition,  and Strategies for Demonstrating Understanding and Skill. There is also an area that describes the planning of assessment, the changing of assessment strategies, and some sample lesson plans complete with timeline of project, venn diagram, table, and assessment timeline. I find it useful to use the large selection of pre-made rubics and modify and save them to my Intel Work Space. From here they can be exported as a Word or Excel file.

In conclusion, Intel offers a top of the line tool that is free to educators. There are other tools which I will explore in future posts but I do suggest that anyone exploring assessment of 21st century skills take a look at the Intel Assessing Projects Tool for its ease of use, vast resources of information,  on-line productivity, and theory behind practice. While it acts as a rubric machine, it goes much farther by transtorming educational practice. Please feel free to email or post. I am interested in learning about other tools available for 21st century assessment.  While taking your journey in 21st century education, please visit my 21centuryedtech Wiki. Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you – Mike (mgorman@sacs.k12.in.us)

 

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The K12 Online Conference – More Then Two Weeks Of Free PD – You Set The Pace!

The K12 Online Conference , with this years theme “Bridging the Divide” is an exciting way to network and facilitate your own professional development.  The conference is free and  includes the weeks of, December 7-11 and December 14-17,  encompassing over fifty presentations. This is a conference  filled with innovative ways  to use Web 2.0 , reflect on best practices, and  learn about technologies that can be used to facilitate 21st century learning. Events and their  scheduled times  are posted ,and as an added extra, they all remain on-line to serve as an archive. In fact, an archives’ page  serves as an outstanding  permanent resouce and  includes over 122 presentations from 20082007, and 2006 . Check out and join  the conference Ning to interact, and read the  conference blog  for good information. The conference wiki is a great place to get started. All of these serve as a place to  view, download, and discuss ideas from the conference. There are  also three live events presented as  “Fireside Chats” and they  are listed on the events page of the conference Ning and Facebook fan page. Live events will  even continue in 2010 through twice-monthly “K-12 Online Echo” webcasts on EdTechTalk. You can also follow the K12 Online Conference on Twitter and Facebook!  There is a great first timers page that provides some helpful information on how to get the most out of this conference. For those interested in PD credit , there is a page  that can give you more information. You can even make  one or more of the presentations a school professional development event. Get together with colleagues to view the conference sessions and discuss.  There is sure to be a session that fits your  interests and school ‘s goals. Remember, the conference and all past conferences  are mostly asynchronous (not happening in real time), so you can catch up with the conference at anytime using the archives. I have included a link to different PDF files that can be printed or emailed (select the one for your time zone). Make sure you check this out and I hope to see you on the Ning! – Mike

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The Googal in Google : I Didn’t Know Google Could Do That!

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It was many years ago that I was introduced to the internet search engine. It amazed me that a website could search through the entire web and pull up web pages from my keywords. While I got my start with Altavista, I soon found myself excited by both the simplicity and complexity provided by Google. Wikipedia defines Googal as “the large number 10100, that is, the digit 1 followed by one hundred zeros in decimal representation. The term was coined in 1938 by Milton Sirotta (1929–1980), nephew of American mathematician Edward Kasner, when he was nine years old”. The people at Google understood the meaning Googal would bring. In fact new words have appeared in the English language such as googled, googling, googler, and possibly even googlist.

In this Blog Posting I would like to investigate a small portion of the new  Googal that is found in Google. Most people are aware of Google Docs, Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Flickr, Google You Tube and the Google Search Engine. It is amazing to explore some of the lesser known areas, beta projects, experiments in the making, and those too new for the (googal) of people to have found yet. Let’s explore!

Google Options – Wonder Wheel and Timeline

First, let’s look at the Google Search Engine itself. Have you ever clicked on that Show Options Button?  If you have not done it lately, now is the time.  Click on the Show Options Button under the search and you will see a bunch of options. One of the neatest options introduced in May of 2009  is the Wonder Wheel. When it is clicked, users get a graphical display of their search. A great way for students to expand search terms!  Directly to the right on the results page  are websites related to the wheel. Click on a spoke of the wheel and you get a new wheel and new links related to that spoke.

wheel2

While in the options menu check out the  Timeline Option. This can can be a neat educational tool. Type in iPod and you will get a timeline of significant events in the iPod’s history. Feel free to explore the option window and also notice you can  Hide Options at anytime.

Google Squared

Another new tool released in the Spring of 2009 is Google Squared (just type in http://www.google.com/squared in your browser). Google describes this tool as a way to collect multiple  facts on a subject from the web. Google Squared then  presents them in an organized collection, similar to a spreadsheet. You can even customize and export results to Excel. Best of all, for students,  it  even includes pictures. Read more about it at  Google’s Blog.

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Google News Timeline

Are your students following a news event? How about looking at an event in history? Then a new service from Google called Google News Timeline is a great resource. Google describes this service as  a web application that easily organizes search results by date. Google puts the news events in a  graphical timeline filled with links and pictures.  Data sources include recent and historical news, scanned newspapers and magazines, blog posts, sports scores, and even information relating to current  media, such as music, albums, and movies. Check out the capabilities as described in the Google Information Site.  Take a moment to view the example below that displays  how students can even find primary sources in news history using Google News Timeline.

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Google Images – More Options with Similar Images and Creative Commons

While students have access to images under “fair use guidelines ” there are still limits to usage. This is especially true  if projects are to be shared online.  Also, educators may have the need to share an image on the web via school web page, blog, or wiki. This is where the ability to use pictures created under “creative commons” comes in handy. Check out this Google July 2009 Blog that explains new features in the advanced settings for image filters. It is a great way to use images others have created, and still stay within copyright. Google has also introduced Similar Images  Search. First, search for a picture , next use Similar Images  Search to find more pictures  that compliment the original search. Also be  sure to note that there is a safe search option in Google.  It  should be set on the strict filtering option when using Google Images and even for a regular Google Web Search in the classroom.

Google Listen

Want to get more use out of your portable devices ? In August of 2009 Google released Google Listen. Google describes it as ” getting more power from your Android-powered device”.  Google Listen allows you to search, subscribe, download and stream. The user can determine what to listen to by  subscribing to programs and  using search words.  Google Listen will take this user information and create a personalized audio-magazine.  At this time, Google Listen is indexing thousands of popular English-only audio sources. Check out the fact sheet and try a download.

Google Sets

Although Google Sets has been around a few years it is a little known product that can be fun to use. Google Sets was  one of the very first applications produced by Google Labs. This awesome little search tool allows the user  to automatically create sets of items from just a few examples. These  user made sets identify  related items on the web.  Predict relationships between words and construct either large  sets or small sets. It is a great tool for brainstorming, seeing relationships, or just figuring out what is missing. It is a surprisingly  intuitive interface, one that will have you attempting to see if it knows what you are thinking. On a recent exploration I entered lions, panthers, bears and was given a set of mammals. However, when I entered Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears,  Carolina Panthers  I was shown a set of NFL Teams. It even knows the Seven Dwarfs from motion picture,  Snow White!

While I did not supply a googal of information, I do hope you are now more familiar with  a little bit more of the googal of resources found in Google. As you explore the website I am sure you will continue to find even more ways to connect Google with today’s digital learner.  Please visit me on my wiki as I continue to  promote the use of free and inexpensive resources at http://21centuryedtech.wikispaces.com/, and enjoy googling!

– Mike

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