Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Document Cameras in your Science Class

Now that I have been discussing uses of Document Cameras (doc cams) in your 21st Century classroom a co-worker suggested that I give out some specific advice for teachers to use them. So what I will be doing is to provide some general topic ideas for teachers to integrate the use of their doc cams into everyday instruction.

My first installment will cover some ways to use your doc cam in your Science class. In our school system we use Lumens DC 166 models with our classroom solution. You may have another version which is perfectly fine, many of the ideas that I will be discussing will transfer easily over to other models of doc cams.

What ways can you use your doc cam in your Science class you may be asking. Or you may just be saying let's get to the point, focus.

  • 3D imaging of Atomic Models
  • Plant Growth over time
  • Dissections
  • Terrariums
  • Show live images along with book photos
  • Display experiments for entire class to see
  • Show details of Bugs and other manipulatives
  • Display "Overhead" resources and use inherent software to write over the sheet without a vis-a-vis pen
  • Make recordings of experiments, dissections, classwork and homework
  • Connect to a Microscope to show cells and cell structures from slides

These are just a small snippet of the things that you can do with your doc cam in your Science classroom. I have a
Livebinder that offers up some additional resources to help get you started in your classroom with integrating your doc cam. One last thing that you may not have thought about that your doc cam can do. Did you know that the doc cam can act as a webcam with Skype? Yes, that is what I said, and you may then be saying so what. Well did you think about how this could open your students up to areas in Science that they may not ever get an opportunity to participate in.

How, you may be asking? You can contact Science Museums where you can take a virtual field trips. You can contact Science departments in Colleges and Universities so that your students who are interested in careers can find out what it takes to become a scientist. Watch my videos to see how to set up your doc cam with Skype and use it with Office products.

Again you may be saying how will this affect me in my instructional day? As a teacher using a doc cam could factor into the new evaluation tool for Standard IV for integrating and utilizing technology in instruction. It can also encompass the new Common Core standards for using technology tools and skills to reinforce classroom concepts and activities. As well as using technology and other resources for the purpose of assessing, organizing, and sharing of information.

Stay tuned for additional posts on ways to use your doc cam in your Math, English, Social Studies and Specialty areas.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Document Camera AHA! Moment

Recently I spent a day at a school working with teachers on ways to integrate Document Cameras(doc cams) into their instructional day more so that just as an expensive overhead. While you can still use your overhead resources, a doc cam offers teachers so much more. As I have talked about in other blog posts our school district has put a lot of time and effort into designing a 21st Century classroom solution. The solution include a doc cam for the teacher to use that is connected to the computer and can be use independently as well as with software on/through the computer.

As the workshop went on and our discussions started to focus in on the participants content areas I asked them what do they do in their classroom. Looking for specific types of responses I waited to see what would happen. A teacher spoke up and said they wanted to help their students go to college. I asked the teacher if the students knew what to expect in the process of applying to colleges. The teacher talked about what they did in the classroom from helping the students to fill out applications and getting documentation ready to send off to colleges.

I took over the conversation then and asked her how she helped them with the applications. Did you know that you can put the FAFSA form under the doc cam and focus in on a section of the application to help the students fill them out easier. The next question was, have you contacted an Admissions Dept. at a local University to talk with your students, because your doc cam can be used as a webcam? I immediately saw eyes lighting up and ears turning towards me. "I did not know that the doc cam could do that." "I had not thought about using the doc cam like that." As the conversation continued a teacher commented what could they do since they were a coach and taught PE. Immediately I asked them if there are some of his students that do not know how to dribble a basketball or soccer ball, or serve a volleyball. He said well yes there are. I responded with the fact he could use the doc cam to video tape another student performing the proper technique to dribble a soccer ball or serving a volleyball. A basic "How To" video made to help out the students. Another teacher spoke up and said I could video tape a student demonstrating proper bowing technique for Orchestra class. Another teacher said that, with a little prodding, how about video taping a mock business plan interview for critique and student review.

The light bulb lit up above each persons head and they all began talking about what they could do with the doc cam in their classroom. Even though they have had the doc cam in their classroom they just needed a little focus and encouragement, a spark to get them thinking of ways they can adapt their curriculum to incorporate the doc cam. At the end of the workshop many of the teachers came up to me and thanked me. Some said that they had never even thought about using their doc cam in the ways we talked about while other said they had never even turned theirs on yet.

There are doc cams in pretty much all of our schools in some form or another currently. If you are reading this post you may not have one but have seen one in the school before. Maybe this will spark something in you to go search out that doc cam in the building or to look at the one in your room differently. Maybe you need some more information about how to use them or some other ideas. I have created a Live Binder, linked below, on ways that you can use doc cams in your classroom as well as some general information from many of the companies that make them. Take a look for yourself and if you have questions you can ask your local on-site Technology Facilitator as well you have access to a District Instructional Technologist for your school that can help answer questions too. As well there are handouts and videos on how to use your doc cam in Learning Village our District Curriculum Warehouse. To find the information click on Resources under Curriculum and then Technology Resources.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Spark your Climate Curiosity

This morning I was reading through some Tweets and came across one that had a link to a website that I had not seen before.

The website is WeatherSpark which when I went to it really blew me away at the amount of information that was available on it. When you go to the homepage for the site you just enter in the city you live in or one that you want to see the weather for and click Get Weather.

Once you do this you are taken to the Dashboard Tab which is partitioned with a Geographical Map on the left side of the screen which displays the previous six hours worth of weather data. At the bottom of this side of the screen there is a slider bar with a play button that allows you to see the satellite imagery as the weather is coming in. You also can see the current temperature within the last ten minutes. On the right side of the screen is a graph that shows the weather trends in a chart format across the day, week, month and year. On the chart you can follow along with the temperature, precipitation and cloud cover during the day. As well you can follow along with that same information over time too. Yes you have access to historical data, looking at the historical information it seems to be generated according to the location that you are searching. So some locations may seem to have more than others as you are looking at them. You can also compare different locations to see how the weather is in different parts of the world on the current date or a time in history.

So how does this apply to you and how you could use this in your classroom? This could be a great opportunity to showcase your Promethean, SMARTBoard, or LCD monitor in your classroom with your students. As a center your students could come up to the board and check the local weather and their favorite vacation spot. You could go back to the year your students were born to see what the weather was like on the day that they were born. During the school year when you are concentrating on weather you can use this site to demo and to gather data. This could function as cross-curricular due to the statistical and analytical components that you could develop around the site.

For teachers this could also factor into the new evaluation tool for Standard IV for integrating and utilizing technology in instruction and helping students to develop problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. It can also encompass the new Common Core standards for using technology tools and skills to reinforce classroom concepts and activities. As well as using technology and other resources for the purpose of assessing, organizing, and sharing of information.

I have just scratched the surface as to the possibilities that you can develop around the WeatherSpark website. Take a look at the site, see what you think of it. After just a few minutes on the site I was hooked and started thinking about all the possibilities of uses that this site could have in the classroom. Thank you @willrich45 for sharing this resource.

Social Networking for Students with a Twist

I recently held a workshop for teachers in our district on a widely known but lightly used web resource within our district. The site is set up so that both students and teachers can have an arena for which to learn, collaborate and share information both in and outside of the confines of the four walls of your everyday classroom. There are two things that I really like about this site.
  1. Students DO NOT have to have email at all.
  2. It resembles another extremely popular website that students are familiar with that will hopefully make it more personal to them as they use it. (Facebook)
What site am I talking about? It's Edmodo. Here is a snippet of the description given by the Edmodo team.

"..Edmodo is a free, secure, social learning platform for teachers, students, schools and provides teachers and students with a secure and easy way to post classroom materials, share links, videos, documents, presentations, and much more. There are also special institutional features for schools and districts that can be accessed for free by administrators..." You might be asking, how does it work? Well it is really simple for the teacher to set up and for the students to access. Just a couple of clicks and you are ready to go with your students.

For the teacher: Go to
  • Click on I'm a Teacher and fill out the short form
  • Find Groups on the left side of the page and Click Create
  • The Group(Class) you create is for your students to Join later
  • When you Save the Group you will receive a Student Access Code
Now that you have created the Group(Class), all you have to do is start entering information for students in the Message Box in the top center of the page.

In the Message Box you can:
  • Enter Notes for students
  • Create Assignments
  • Ask questions by creating a Poll
  • Send Web Links, videos and files
  • Even send Alerts when necessary
Everything that both you and the students key in will show up in the Feed Roll in the center of the page, similar to the aforementioned website. Both the students and the teacher have the ability to send, receive and store documents within the Edmodo site. Which is a plus now that there is a push to "go digital" and leave the paper behind. But how do the students access Edmodo so that they can participate. It is very easy and remember no Email address required they just need the Code that was created when you set up the Group(Class).

As a Student: Go to the website
  • Click on I'm A Student
  • Enter the Code that the teacher provides you
  • Start following the Discussion in the center of the page
  • Join in the conversation
Edmodo offers the user many resources to Help get you started. From "How to" videos to resources dedicated to Help you figure out how to use Edmodo within the classroom. The Community page offers Groups that you can join to find additional resources by collaborating with others teachers and professionals that are using the site.

So why would you want to use Edmodo? What is the draw for me as a teacher to use this product over and above what I am currently doing in my classroom? Over the past few years it has been increasingly obvious that the Digital Age is here and we need to become a part of it. As teachers we need to look at different avenues to get our students attention. This website may just be that focal point. Students are already using Facebook, and Edmodo looks similar in design so that could be the buy in.

For teachers this could also factor into the new evaluation tool for Standard IV for integrating and utilizing technology in instruction and helping students to develop problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. It can also encompass the new Common Core standards for using technology tools and skills to reinforce classroom concepts and activities. As well as using technology and other resources for the purpose of assessing, organizing, and sharing of information.

Give it a try and see what you think, don't just take my word for it. You may discover that this tool will be a benefit to both you and your students. Take a look at the video below to get a little bit more information on Edmodo.

Image provided by
video from and ipadsammy

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

When Does Learning End?

Does learning end on the last day of the school year? It’s the end of the school year, you are ready to get out of the classroom and so are your students. But how do you keep their minds sharp during the summer months? What can you do to compete with the beach, family gatherings and all the other fun summer activities that they could be doing instead of learning?

I remember growing up that my mother, who wouldn’t admit to it, would plan our vacations and other summer time fun so that we would learn something at the same time. Whether it was a trip to the day camp at the local Museum, traveling to Washington DC and Philadelphia, going to the Aquarium while at the beach, or just something as simple as helping her plant a garden or baking cookies. She tried to keep us learning even though we did not know we were learning because we thought it was fun.

That was a long time ago, how long I won’t tell, but what do you do today? With all of the other distractions of this day and age how do you keep your Elementary School students or children learning throughout the summer?

There are camps that they can still go to, you can arrange trips to cities where they can learn about the history of the U.S. like D.C., Philadelphia maybe Beaufort, North Carolina’s first capital, or even local to Old Salem. But what happens when it rains or if it is to hot to play outside for any length of time? As much as I hate to say it there are all of those nice wonderful little gadgets around that they can play with. From the full blown gaming consoles and computers to iPad and Android tablets or even the small handheld devices like the PSP and Nintendo DS. There are educationally sound games that students can play that make them think through problems and use math concepts. I think it was interesting when a co-worker mentioned that their child started playing “Angry Birds” even though the child was having fun they were also learning, by default mind you, mathematical concepts for trajectory and angles. There are many different websites available for students to use that will allow them to continue their learning through the summer and they will think it is fun because it seems like a game to them.

Here is a sample list of sites that your students/children can go to on the web to learn during the summer or at any time during the year.

· PBS for Kids – Has educational games, videos and activities for kids

· BBC Children – Has educational games, videos and activities for kids

· Math Playground – Multiple resources for learning in Math

· NASA for Kids – Offers lots of fun interactive resources for student learning. Starchild site

· Tryscience – Where you can download fun experiments to do at home with your children

· Google Art Project – Virtual tours of Museums from around the world.

· Crayola for Kids – Online coloring and drawing activities for kids

Through our school system students have access to netTrekker an online safe search engine that will automatically filter out and remove any non-educational information so that you only see search results that have merit and have been checked out to make sure they are educationally sound.

As a teacher and as a parent, possibly, you know that learning is never done. It is always happening and ever evolving throughout your life. Take some time to teach or learn something this summer so that it will make a difference in a student/child’s life to help them be life-long learners.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Yes, You Can Do The Same Thing Twice

Have you ever heard the phrase... "you can't do the same thing twice, or ..I bet that will never happen twice?" Well I have to admit that I HAD that problem when it came to making duplicate shapes in ActivInspire. It would just seem to take forever to try to get the second shape the exact size as the first one that I drew. It was really bad when I was trying to create a Ven Diagram. Come on folks I know that there is someone out there that is shaking there head in agreement with me on this. So what do you do?

Well here are two quick ways that will allow you to create multiple shapes. Shapes that will always be the same size so that you do not have to sit there pulling your hair out because the mouse won't move in less than 5 pixels increments. At least that is what I think happened to my hair.

The first thing one is the hardest one to do you just click on the shape and in the object editing tools(the little boxes above or to the side of the shape) there is an icon with what looks like two pieces of paper, one on top of the other. This is the Duplicate button just click on that and there you go. Now I did say that one was more difficult didn't I? So the next way to accomplish this is to simply Left click(PC) or Click(Mac) and drag the shape to the top Right corner of the Main Toolbox and release. This will put an Icon of the shape just above the Edit User Defined Button Icon. All you have to do now is just click on the new shape icon that is in the Toolbox.

So give it a try and reduce your stress level when it comes to creating duplicate shapes in ActivInspire. Oh, I almost forgot. I did make a quick video that outlines what I just talked about so I hope that it helps you out.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Wonders of Integrating Technology

I have been talking with some teachers over the year about their new ActivClassroom and what they have been doing to integrate the new technology into their instructional day. Most of the responses I have gotten are that the students are interacting with the ActivBoard and the software for their daily lessons and activities designed around the SCOS for NC. They have told me that they are also using the voting devices and ActivSlates with the students.

So.. I have a couple of co-workers in my office that told me about a new website they discovered a few months ago called Wonderopolis that offers, each day, a brand new Wonder of the Day for you to ponder about. I think it is a great site and there are a lot of "Wonders" that I find myself saying, " I really did not know that" or ".. I never even thought about that in that way."

Now in passing I have been mentioning, to those same teachers, about the Wonderopolis site and how great it is. I have talked about how engaging the site could be for students. How, as teachers, they could use the site as a connecting activity for the subjects they are covering in class. Now I am not saying that this could take the place of teachers Essential Questions, but it could be a great morning activity to help the students focus and get ready for the day.

Well today things changed a little bit. I was contacted by one of the teachers whom I have been discussing technology integration throughout the year. She told me that she had been to the Wonderopolis site and really liked it. In the conversation she told me about how she went into the archive to see some of the past Wonders and found a few that she liked. This led to her creating an ActivInspire flipchart around four wonders, which she liked, to share with her students.

When I heard this and saw the flipchart I went to Melissa Edwards, in our office, and let her know about what was going on and to show her flipchart. Well she thought that it was great and wanted to share the information with the people at Wonderopolis. So she, Melissa, contacted Shannon Kohn, the Wonderopolis Community Manager, and gave her the quick story on what was going on. Her response:

"How AWESOME! Thank you so much for sharing this, Melissa! It is so great to see the Wonderopolis connections being made and passed on from educator-to-educator and then educator-to-student!"

The flipchart demos the following Wonders: if you would like to download the flipchart click on this link
How long would it take to travel to Mars? #215
Can you really cook an Egg on the Sidewalk? #243
How does 3D work? #242
Why are School Buses Yellow? #129

All I can say is that I am very happy that our teachers are "Getting It" and "Getting Inspired" to create their own materials that showcase the features of the technology that they have access to in their classrooms. From what the teacher has shared with me, her students really enjoyed the site. Note: in the wonder information there were some words that they were not familiar with that then led to another discussion on vocabulary. This just shows that it only takes something simple to start a great conversation with your students.