The Modern School's Library

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#edtech #elearning

The local newspaper just wrote an article about the changes I made to my elementary school's library. This is not the school library you grew up with...

- Brad Flickinger, Bethke Elementary

 

Edtech Overload - Too Much of a Good Thing

#edtech #edchat #elearning Yesterday I spent a few hours reviewing my notes from all of the edtech conferences that I attended this past summer. While going through my notes I kept a list of the ideas that I wanted to try with my students this upcoming 2011-2012 school year. By the time I was done with my review, my list of was over 38 items! How do I incorporate 38 new ideas into my classroom this year?

One of the general problems with today's society is information overload. But how do we cure it? How do we stay up-to-date with our lessons without feeling like we are just chasing our edtech tails?

The reality is that you cannot do everything -- you need to prioritize. So I went back over my edtech idea list and I started to rate each item; one star=cool but I can like without, two stars=I really want to try this, and three stars=I must do this.

After I rated each item, I ended up with only 6 - three star items. My pulse rate started to slow down as I realized that I could deal with 6 new edtech ideas this year.

I then opened up my scope and sequence for all of my classes and started to look for areas where I could incorporate these new ideas. Within just a few minutes I had these items in, and I started to revise my lesson plans.

Now that I was done with the "must haves," I moved on to the edtech ideas that I really like but were not critical - I had 10 of these on my list. By the time I was done with my lesson planning I had 7 of the 10 ideas included. So from 38 I now have only 13 new ideas, a much more manageable list. But it was still a list of 13 ideas that I needed to figure out before school starts again in 10 days. So the next thing I did was to open my Atomic Learning account and start looking for tutorials on these edtech ideas. I found out that most of my new ideas had tutorials -- now I could sleep at night.

Teachers: you can't do it all -- but you can do most of it with a little strategic planning.

Good luck!

- Brad Flickinger, Tech Teacher, Bethke Elementary School

Learning.com Review: EasyTech

#edtech #edchat #elearning

For years I have been all alone in teaching my elementary students about the world of technology, I've made all my own lessons from scratch as I tried my best to give my students the tech skills that they so desperately need in this new world of the 21st Century.

That was all perfect until I came across Learning.com this summer at the ISTE conference in Philadelphia. I just wandered into their booth drawn by the free candies that they prominently displayed at the back of the booth. "Candy," I thought in my head, saying it like I was Homer Simpson. I was just inches away from my reward when I was approached by a rep from Learning.com who asked me if I would like a demonstration of their products.

Busted!

I was beat and needed to sit down so I agreed.

The first product they showed me was their web based tech training for elementary students called EasyTech.

"This should be good," I sarcastically thought to myself believing that I had the best tech lessons on the planet..

I watched as they demonstrated how easy it was for students to log on and then follow along with an animated lesson about certain tech subject.

Learning.com blew me away with EasyTech.

Animated Lessons

Learning.com EasyTech

The lesson I watched was done with a cool animated character named Lukas Blackwell, a young rocker who is on a european tour and wants to stay connected to his friends and fans so he starts his own blog. I was pleasantly shocked at how much detail this little lesson covered, they really went into all of the deeper aspects of blogging, not forgetting to cover Internet safety all along the way.

The animation and narration of EasyTech is top notch and it is not just a "sit and watch" lesson, on every other slide the student needs to interact with the lesson to make sure that they are understanding the content that is being presented. Learning.com has got strong academics backing these lessons -- something that caught my eye from the first of the demo.

Here is a link to the same lesson on blogging that I saw at their booth in Philadelphia.

http://www.learning.com/easytech/

Just click on the Curriculum link and then Grades 6-8 Sample.

Offline Work

The other half of the EasyTech program are the lesson plans for teachers to use once the online lesson is over. This is usually a PDF that has it all spelled out for the teacher. Here is a quote from the blogging assignment:

In this activity, students create and respond to blogs as they read and write about literature. To begin, the class is divided into two teams. Each team brainstorms prompts about the current reading and theme for the other team. The teams then break into pairs to respond to the prompts in their blogs. Students post blog entries in first person as one of the main characters, and respond to other students blogs in their own voices. In a culminating project, students watch a modern-day movie version of the literary work and blog a final movie review essay that compares and contrasts the movie to the original work and provides a movie review.

Learning.com's EasyTech is a fee-based subscription service that is for the K-8 market. They also offer other products like: Aha!Science and Aha!Math, which I will review at a later date.

Here are some photos of my students using Learning.com's EasyTech on their netbooks:

EasyTech lessons are aligned with the ISTE NETS-S standards (something that I strongly believe in), and that they are available in both Spanish and English.

What really ticks me off about this particular EasyTech lesson on blogging is that I worked for years to develop and refine my own blogging lesson and in the end I didn't cover half of what was covered by Learning.com And what really hurts is how my kids think that the rocker character "Lukas Blackwell" is so much cooler than me.

I should have never fell for the candy!

- Brad Flickinger, Bethke Elementary School

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Atomic Learning Review: Tech Integration Projects

#edtech #edchat #elearning #elemchat

Audacity-Windows

Like many of you, I spend my summers revamping my lessons so that I am ready for the upcoming school year. This is especially true when it comes to teaching technology -- what was fresh and cool one year becomes outdated and un-cool the next. So I woke up this morning wanting to update my Audacity training (Audacity if a voice recording program), but after an hour of racking my brain for ideas on how my make a cool Audacity project it dawned on  me to check to see what Atomic Learning (AL) had.

You see, I knew that Atomic Learning would have tutorials on how to use Audacity, but what I really wanted was a project. So I logged into AL and I noticed that one of the search criterias was for "projects," so I clicked search and sure enough there was a project for Audacity called "What does Sound Look Like."

I looked it over and it was perfect, just what I was looking for. Here is what the project description says:

We'll begin by importing audio into Audacity. We'll explore the audio waveform and identify drum beats and instrument attacks in the amplitude, as well as take a quick look at the relationship between frequency and pitch. Then, we'll cut silence out of the song, fade it out, and crossfade it with another song. Finally, we'll find a 4-measure loop, remove it from the song, and save the new song as a WAV file.

So I checked that off my list and moved on to my next summer project -- cleaning the garage! I wonder if they have a project for that?

- Brad Flickinger, Bethke Elementary School

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New Podcast Episode: Day Two of Podstock 2011

#edtech #edchat #elemchat #podstock2011 I just uploaded a new episode of Elementary Tech Teacher's Journal.

Episode Number 33 (special episode from Podstock 2011)

"Day Two of Podstock 2011"

Show Notes

Here is my summary of Day Two of Podstock 2011 in Wichita, Kansas.

http://www.bradflickinger.com/Brad_Flickinger/Podcast/Podcast.html

This week's episode is sponsored by Atomic Learning.

Atomic Learning Review: Creatives Commons Workshop

#edchat #elearning

I have started to post a lot of photos on my Flickr account. In fact, I just had to upgrade to a pro account because I just passed the limit for a free account. Most of my photos have to with elementary students using technology, which has got me thinking about the world of "creative commons," which is a licensing tag that your photos have in Flickr.So the first thing that popped into my head was, "What the heck is creative commons?"

The next thing that popped in my head was, "I wonder if Atomic Learning has something on it?"

Within a few minutes I was watching the videos in the Creative Commons Workshop. It answered all my questions and I was soon back in Flickr applying the correct creative commons tag to all of my photos. Nice!

Brad Flickinger's Flickr Photostream

Atomic Learning

- Brad Flickinger, Bethke Elementary School

Atomic Learning Review: Effective Online Teaching and Learning

#edtech #edchat #elearning This morning I logged into my Atomic Learning account to catch up on a couple of things I needed to learn to work more with Blackboard when I noticed that they had just released a new training course on Effective Online Teaching and Learning. Since I have just spent the last year developing some of my own online courses I was intrigued by their new course.

I clicked on the link and watched the intro video (see below). It was just what I was looking for. The course is broken down into four major chapters:

1) Build Your Understanding: workshops on how to create a great online course.

2) Put This Concept Into Practice: shows three different online courses so you can get an idea of what a good online course should look like.

3) Reflect and Apply: is full of workshops on how to share your work with others.

4) Reference Tools: this is the technical "how-to's" to all the different applications for delivering online courses. In fact, this is where I ended up because of the links to the Blackboard training tutorials.

Here is the video that caught my eye:

- Brad Flickinger, Bethke Elementary School

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My 5 Take-Aways from Edubloggercon

#ebc11 #edtech #elearning #iste11

I am currently hanging out in the blogger cafe at ISTE 2011 in Philadelphia and having a great time with my fellow bloggers. But before I get caught up with everything ISTE, I wanted to get a few things written down about yesterday's Edubloggercon. So here are my five take-aways:

1. BYOD IS UNSTOPPABLE. (Bring Your Own Device) Five years from now we will be laughing about how we wanted to buy all students a district owned laptop for 1:1, when all students really wanted to do was to bring their own devices like iPods, iPads, and smartphones. We need to let them store in the cloud and not on our networks and let them use cloud based apps like Google Docs.

2. TEACH WITH PASSION, LEARN WITH PASSION: We all crowded around a local 16 year old student named Jeff who taught us that he wants to learn from teachers who are passionate about their subjects so that he can be passionate about his learning. He has been lucky that at his school he has such teachers -- we were amazed.

3. STUDENTS SHOULD HELP STUDENTS: Before a student gets help from his teacher he should ask 3 or 4 of his classmates. Holy crud, the teacher doesn't have all the answers! I don't know how to use Prezi, so should I ban my students from using it? No, instead we should let them teach each other technology that we don't understand.

4. STUDENTS WANT SOME AUTONOMY: They want to have a little choice in what they do. If we give an assignment, we should let them pick their own method of learning proof -- sometimes. You could really be surprised by what you get back (good and bad).

5. MAKE A GOOGLE CLASSROOM: This one is connected to the point I made above. If you don't know already, the company of Google has an 80/20 rule. Employees are to give 80% of their time to current Google projects, the other 20% of the time they can work on whatever they want -- they still must work, but they can work on anything. Imagine if we allowed that at school. Just think of the cool projects that kids could work on during this free learning time.

To be fair, I must admit that only attended 1/8th of the discussion, since there were 8 classes per hour and I had to pick. So this was my take, other participants probably walked away with totally different ideas.

- Brad Flickinger

My 5 big take-aways from TIE Colorado 2011

#edtech #tie2011 #elearning

I am stuck on my plane at the terminal in Denver while they fix a sensor, so I am taking some time to write this post before I head to Philly for ISTE (so far we have been stuck on the Tarmac for 2 hours). To say that this year's TIE conference was amazing would be an understatement, so here are my top five take-aways from this incredible conference.

1. TEXTBOOKS ARE DEAD: I love libraries just as much as anyone, but the reality is that digital media is getting bigger and bigger, especially when it comes to textbooks. The time will come in the near future that schools, districts, teachers and students will embrace the idea that to have digital textbooks is more economical and practical than tree-killing paper ones.

2. TWITTER IS NOT JUST A PASSING CRAZE: last week Apple announced that Twitter will be built into its upcoming new release of it's new operation system (IOS), meaning that it will be integrated into everything. Here at TIE, there was a big separation between the Tweeters and Non-Tweeters. Those on Twitter got so much more from the conference because of everything they were getting from Twitter. I loved to follow the back channels from the different sessions to keep up on everything that was happening and what other attendees were thinking.

3. THE CLOUD IS THE FUTURE: Those in the know, do not store anything on their computers, that's so last year. Instead, everything is in the cloud -- mostly by using Google Docs. There is an incredible feeling of power when you know that you can get all your files that you have ever created on any device; smart phone, iPad, laptop, etc. Some people even demonstrated the idea of a personal cloud in your house that allows you to access your information from anywhere. Nice!

4. BUILDING A PERSONAL LEARNING NETWORK IS CRITICAL: my PLN is everything to me, and being at TIE allowed me to add some really incredible people. People that will help me be a better tech teacher, people that I can turn to for advice and ideas, people that are passionate about what they do.

5. EDTECH PEOPLE LOVE WHAT THEY DO: it doesn't matter if it is a session that you are sitting in or attending a social gathering, you soon find out that for the most part these edtech people are crazy about what they do -- some to the point of obsession. But it's all good.

So there are five things from my list of over 25 things that I am going to take back to my school. Farewell TIE for this year and I'll count the days until we can get together next year and do this again. I had a great time and I know that this coming school year is going to be so much better thanks to my time at TIE.

- Brad Flickinger

Just Checked In: TIE Colorado

 

#edtech #tieco #elearning

Just got checked into my condo at Copper Mountain Resort and picked up the name badge and info for speaking at TIE Colorado. It looks like it is going to be a great conference, the woman in front of me while checking in said it is way better than ISTE, so I am looking forward to the sessions.

The theme this year is "New Frontiers." Boy, they aren't kidding. Edtech is going through a lot of changes and reform so I hope to get a lot of ideas over the next four days.

I'll keep you posted on what I learn.

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Off to TIE Colorado

#edtech #edchat #elearning Tomorrow I am off to speak at TIE Colorado at Copper Mountain. This year will be a little different in that I will be leaving my laptop at home, everything that I will be presenting will be coming off of my iPad 2.

I will be presenting two workshops; Movie Making with Elementary Students and Podcasting with Elementary Students. So there I will be making movies and podcasts with my iPad if you can believe it. When the iPad came out last year I thought it would be a great consuming tool, but now I use it for almost everything I do. In fact, this blog post is being typed into my iPad (although I am not really typing, I am dictating instead).

So with the movie making workshop, I will show teachers the tricks I use to get students to make awesome movies and with the podcasting class I will show my secrets on how I have made over 280 podcasts with my elementary students.

If you are at TIE Colorado, please come and find me and say "Hi."

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Over 80% of Atomic Learning videos work on iPads

#edchat #elearning It seems that every week I used my iPad more and more and my laptop less and less, so when stumbled across the recent blog post from Atomic Learning stating that most of their videos now work on my iPad, I looked over at my dusty laptop and said "sorry." This was No small task when you consider the tens of thousands of videos that are in their library.

I just went to my AL account and I happy to report that the videos work great on my iPad.

In fact, I am writing this blog post on my iPad using an app called Blogsy, so thank you Atomic Learning for keeping at the leading edge of the curve. Which is good because by this time next year my laptop could be on eBay.

Summer 2011 To Do List

#edtech #elearning #elemchat I got into teaching for a number of different reasons, one of which was to have my summers off to lay around and do nothing. I have been teaching for over 13 years and I never had a summer off, but I keep my fingers crossed that one summer it will happen.

Instead, like many teachers I spend my summers getting ready for the following school year. I revise lessons, attend conferences and training and basically spend every day trying to be better at what I do -- teach children technology.  

Training

Being a tech teacher I have the added pressure of keeping up with new technology. I never want my work to be stale so I spend a lot of time each summer learning how to do something new with technology. So I am sure that I will be stending a lot of time in my Atomic Learning account learning some new tech skills from their tutorials and workshops. This summer I plan on learning how to do stop-frame animation so that I can teach my students how to animate LEGO next fall. http://www.brickfilms.com/

Reading

This summer I plan to read two books; The Death and Life of the Great American School by Diane Revitch and Teach like a Champion by Doug Lemov.

Conferences

PODSTOCK: Although I have never attended before, I am really looking forward to attending this smaller conference. I think that these people are most like who I am or who I want to be as a tech teacher. http://podstock.ning.com/

ISTE: This is the big one and this year it is in Philly. Although I love most everything about this big daddy of edtech conferences, what I really like about ISTE actually takes place the day before. It is called EduBloggerCon and it where I get to rub shoulders with other people who do what I do. Blogger and podcasters that are the Who's Who of educational technology. http://www.edubloggercon.com/EduBloggerCon+2011

Who knows, maybe next summer will be the one that I will take off and relax, meanwhile I will continue my pursuit of better edtech lessons for my students.

Blended Professional Development

#edtech #edchat #elearning I write this post as I am stuck in the airport. Actually, I am only 45 miles from my home here in Northern Colorado, but I am trying to fly to Seattle this evening to do some blended professional development tomorrow with the Northshore school district. My flight got delayed nearly three hours, so here I sit.

In the past I have called it Blended Learning, but that term is being used so much with regards to teaching young students, that I prefer the term "Blended Professional Development."

Anyone who has been in education for longer than a month knows about "PD." It is what us teachers do to get better -- or to get tortured -- depending on how you approach it. By adding the word "blended" to the front of it I believe it gets much better.

The top of the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington

The course I am teaching in Seattle (if I can make it there) is all about integrating 21st Century Skills into lessons and it is being offered by my pals over at Atomic Learning. Two weeks ago the teachers in Seattle got their assignment and access to the online component of the course. The teachers have been learning from these online lessons and when we get together tomorrow we will all be on the same page, which means we can get right down to work without having to spend a lot of time on instruction. This is so much better that the "old" way of doing PD.

Gotta go... I think I might be finally boarding.

 

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When Technology Bites Back

#edtech #edchat #elearning #elemchat So this morning I was presenting a webinar for Atomic Learning about technology integration secrets for administrators, things were going great. My ideas were flowing, my slides were looking great, I was the top of my game.

I checked the little scale that tells me how many of my participants are paying attention (meaning, my webinar is the top window on their computer) and I was at 97%. This means these hundreds of administrators were really watching my webinar and not off checking their emails.

Then it happened…

I’m about half way through, and I go to ask my third poll question, I like to poll the participants because it keeps them involved, when things suddenly went wrong. I’m still yakking away, when I notice that nothing is happening. Everything is frozen. I wait a few seconds – nothing.

I panic. I’m now trying every trick in the book – still nothing.

I know what I need to do next, but it is going to kill my webinar. I reach down and restart my computer.

Seven minutes later I reconnect with my webinar and see that only 9 people stayed. I put on a good face and finish the webinar.

So how could I have fixed it?

Preparation, that’s how. I know better than this. Technology will always have little hiccups.

Number one rule with technology: Always have a plan B!

I tell teachers this all the time… If the projector won’t turn on, have your students practice keyboarding for a few minutes while you figure it out. If your students can’t save to the server, have them save it on your teacher’s thumb drive.

When I do the same webinar tomorrow I will tell my participants all about plan “B.” I made a note on my first slide to warn my participants that if I ever drop off, they should stay connected, go get a coffee, and wait for me to return.

Technology plus and little patience equals a better chance at success.

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Webinar: Tech Integration Secrets for Administrators

#edtech #edchat #elearning A few weeks ago I blogged about how webinars have gotten a bad rap because some webinars have wrecked it for the rest of us (see link below). Well, as the saying goes, "Talk is cheap." so I have been working on my upcoming webinar to make sure that it delivers.

Last week I did my first rehearsal with Kathy from Atomic Learning. Most parts were smooth, but there were still a few rough spots. One of the big parts that we were focusing on is the audience participation pieces. Polls and surveys that, depending on the audience results, change how the webinar is presented. These polls are very valuable to me as the presenter, they let me know where everyone is at.

So I guess what I am trying to say it that great webinars don't just happen, they are planned and rehearsed so that your audience gets the most of the hour that they spend with you.

One of the things that make our webinars so successful is that we don't just do a "data dump" on the participants. Instead, we tell stories, stories about what real people are doing on the subject. In this case we tell about how one particular principal got technology integrated into her Montana school, and how she went from nothing to full integration in less than a year.

For more information on my upcoming webinar, just click the link below.

More info.

 

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Teachers Liable for Student's Online Work?

#edtech #edchat #elearning #elemchat Are teachers liable for the work that students post online as part of a class project?

The other day I got a tweat from a colleague asking me if teachers are liable for the online work that students do? She had overheard a teacher union rep tell a teacher, "Never allow your students to put things online -- because you can be held liable for it."

There went the baby and the bath water.

Just to be clear, I am not talking about things that students do online that are not connected to school. Things like Facebook and such that are not part of school work and have no connection to the teacher are not relevant for what we are talking about here. What I am talking about is student's online work that is part of a classroom project.

Here is an example...

Let's say you start an 8th grade classroom blog about the Civil War. You have each student start their own blog account with, let's say Blogger, and then you start each student blogging about the Civil War as you give them weekly assignments. Soon your students are having a great time blogging and commenting on each other's blogs and you feel like a great teacher -- giving your students 21st Century Skills.  A few weeks into the project you are asked to come to the principal's office to meet with some angry parents who have just found out that their daughter has been cyberbullied by students in your class with posts that they have made on their blogs, their Civil War blogs. Or should I say -- your Civil War blogs. They threaten to sue the school and you.

What do you do?

Does that mean we should never allow online classroom projects?

Here is what I think about it...

I think of student using the Internet like students using power tools, let me explain.

  1. Get Parent Permissions: I would never allow students to use dangerous power tools without getting their parent's permission. So do the same with online projects. Send home a parent permission slip explaining the project and the risks that are involved. Invite the parents to be involved with online projects.
  2. Educate the Students: Don't let a student use a table saw without explaining how it works and the safety rules. Train your students how to properly do work online, teach them about Internet Safety and how to be good digital citizens. Teach them about the rules -- spell them out for them so they clearly understand. The school I teach at has a very clear policy on cyberbulling and my kids know it.
  3. Monitor Student Work: Watching students with power tools, keep them following the rules. Make sure to check in on what your students are doing online. Comment on their blogs, let them know you are watching and taking care of them online -- just like if they were on a field trip. Don't allow them to wander off and do other things, keep them close and focused on the project.

This is just simple "due diligence" on the part of the teacher when it comes to online classroom projects, this will keep you and your school out of a lot of how water. And most importantly, it can save a student from getting hurt online.

What do you think?

 

 

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Webinars that don't suck.

#edtech #edchat #elearning Webinars are starting to get a bad name – and to be honest, I can understand why. I, like you, have had to sit through some pretty bad webinars. You know the ones; boring, uninteresting, slow, etc. Which is why when Atomic Learning recently contacted me about putting together a new webinar for administrators about tech integration, I jumped at the chance. I want to figure out the right way to do webinars.

As you can see from the workshops on this website, I like to talk about tech integration – so I have a lot of material I could use. But the big question is how do I make a great webinar? I’ll talk about that as we review why webinars suck…

Boring Presenter: Being a webinar presenter is tough. Normally presenters can connect with their audience by the visual cues they see when they are standing in front of them, but with a webinar, the presenter doesn’t see anyone. I remember the first webinar I gave – that part freaked me out. I would tell stories that I thought were funny but the only feedback I got was just the screen flickering in front of me. So a presenter has got to be dynamic in how they present. I usually put on a wireless mic and stand up when I do a webinar so it gets me to be more pronounced in what I say.

Uninteresting: Since the only things a webinar presenter has going for himself is the slides and his voice – he had better have the most amazing slides he can find.  Your slides should be big, professional images that back up everything that is said. Your slides should be so good that your participants are sucked in, instead of just minimizing you as they go back to Facebook and their email.

Slow: Most participants have better things to do than to hear you ramble on about something. Respect their time by being fast-paced and engaging. Throw a ton of info at them, so that they are scrambling to keep notes. They can always review the show notes for URLs and other things that are referenced in your webinar.

So now that I have slammed on webinars, it is time for me to step up and do something about it. I have been working on mine for Atomic Learning, even though it is not until the end of March. I’ll keep you posted.

What is the worst webinar you’ve attended?

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