Search this blog

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Try something new! Share your success!

Digital Learning Day is right around the corner.  February 1st is the day to celebrate the power of using technology to increase student learning.  At, their goal is to celebrate innovative teachers and instructional technologies.  I am willing to bet if you are reading this, you are an innovative teacher and have lots of instructional technology tricks up your sleeves.  The object is to get everyone, no matter their comfort level, to try something new and celebrate their success!  They have more than 780,000 students participating.  Sign up and be counted!   Do you have a piece of technology or web tool that you learned about and just haven't gotten around to trying it?  Celebrate digital learning day by getting around to it.

Want an easy way to celebrate?
Why not celebrate National Digital Learning day by having your students do a SCAN session with a class from another school?
Here’s all you have to do:
1.  Email me at with your class grade level, number of students participating and approximate time the class meets (classes do not have to be synchronous but it would be fun.).
2.   I will email you a name and password (so you can print out a worksheet and monitor the session), some helpful tips and the URL for your class to use to work on the Cell Phone Controversy scenario (It’s free!).
3.  Assign roles and have your students work through the session on February 1st.
4.  Send the TregoED template press release to showcase your success!
This could be the start of something big! 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Online Discussions Defrost Brain Freeze

Do simple writing prompts freeze the minds of your students?  How do you use technology to help students flesh out their essays?  How can you help them get out of the "I don't know what to write, so I will write the same thought in 16 different ways?

Writing is often assessed for focus, organization, development of ideas, voice and conventions.   We found that most of our students were familiar with the writing process, but did not know how to develop their ideas into meaningful and detailed prose, a skill required in state testing.  How do we help our students develop ideas and voice when faced with a simple prompt?

 Improving Student Writing
Studies show that students’ writing improves when they have an audience and purpose, an interest or passion, and time to think about it.  Unfortunately, when it comes to high stakes testing, students don’t feel like they are given the time or information to develop the content.  We give them a process or strategy to deal with writing and mechanics, why not also give them a process to help them build a framework for developing their ideas?  Giving students practice and a set of questions can help improve their writing by helping them learn how to elaborate and incubate ideas from a writing prompt.  Using online discussion tools can help provide students with an engaging and motivational tool to practice this thinking process.

SCAN Online
Similar to Glogster, Voicethread, MovieMaker, PhotoStory and any number of other great Web 2.0 tools, the SCAN tool provides a communication interface for students to share, review and respond to each other’s work.   However, what elevates SCAN above all of the other tools is that students do not use SCAN after their research or thinking is complete.  SCAN actually provides a process to help students see other perspectives and develop a depth of understanding of the issues.  Exploring other perspectives and considering them in their writing can help students develop writing that is thoughtful and insightful.
Giving Kids Perspective
Using the SCAN online tool, students take on the part of a perspective provided in a scenario that they will represent by identifying and clarifying issues, assessing what is important and communicating what they think should be done.  This built-in process helps students collaborate to resolve the issues and present real solutions.  These same four steps (See the issues, Clarify the Issues, Assess what’s important, and Now, Name your next steps) can be used by students to help them develop a thoughtful essay when given a simple writing prompt. Simply going through these four steps in the pre-write, can help students avoid the “I don’t know what to write so I write the same thought over and over in different ways” problem.  We have found that using the SCAN tool can help our students assimilate this simple strategy to organize their thinking when faced with a simple writing prompt.

For resources to help students use the SCAN process in writing go to
To see a short video on how the SCAN tool works go to

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Great discussions can lead to great writing!

Do you talk about race in the classroom?  Will students shy away from participating?  Using online discussion tools can help get all of your students involved in the conversation.  Modeling and practicing the rules of netiquette can make your students comfortable and feel validated.

Check out this lesson from the Collaborize Classroom library:
“Read this article with teen responses to the question “Has Martin Luther King’s dream been realized?"  Select one student’s answer and state whether you agree or disagree with their perspective.  If so, what strong points did he or she make? What could you add to his or her argument?
If you disagree, explain why. Identify areas of his explanation that were underdeveloped. What concerns do you have about this topic that he/she did not address?  After posting your response, read your classmates’ opinions and post a substantive reply to a student with an opposing viewpoint. Ask questions, present counterarguments and compliment strong points made.”

This assignment is a great prerequisite to writing a thoughtful essay.  Reading other student's answers can help jumpstart your student’s thinking.  Having students answer these questions in a free, private Collaborize Classroom will get them thinking and engaged.  Follow up with the “Dr. King’s Dream” SCAN lesson to increase their content knowledge.  You can improve your student’s essay writing by providing topics that are engaging and relevant, giving them time to think and access to resources.  Online discussion tools can get students involved in discussions to get them thinking and writing.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Dr. King's Dream

Remembering Dr. King’s legacy is a relevant activity in any classroom whether covering bullying, the economy, world peace, social justice or looking for relevant nonfictional reading and writing across several disciplines. Plan ahead using some of these great resources to get your students thinking.

For Students:

Students get a small taste of what segregation feels just entering the site.  They can listen to Dr. King’s speeches or read some of his other writings at Remember Segregation.  Simply powerful.

Watch a video on Dr. King, fill out a KWL graphic organizer, take a quiz, or study relevant vocabulary at BrainPop

Read the Story of Martin Luther King and find related facts, figures and folklore. (some ads)

Play the “It’s Not Fair Game” to learn about and experience prejudice first hand!  Fun- teaches students MLK related vocabulary while skewing the score to discover how it feels when "it's not fair!"

For Teachers:
Teachersfirst (a great FREE teacher resource page) has links to many different MLK resources including video links, lesson ideas, materials, and interactive sites.

See what other teachers are doing for MLK day at Scholastic’s site.   

Watch great historical videos of the Civil Rights Movement and Rev. King

Try out this free SCAN lesson “Dr. King’s Dream.”  Register from the dashboard, set up the lesson and send kids to your private URL to discuss whether Dr. King’s dream has been reached in their school, state, country or globally. They will look at issues from each perspective and name some action steps that you might take to solve them.  New to SCAN?  Start here.

Students can make a difference:  Read the 6 Steps to Nonviolent Social Change and remind students of the small everyday things they can do such as not judging others by their appearance or actions, sticking up for others, or learning more about different religions and cultures. Have them make a list of actions that they can do to reach MLK's dream.

How will you honor his legacy and work towards his dream?