Monday, February 21, 2011

Library of Congress Virtual Tour

While perusing the app store yesterday I came across a wonderful, free app from the Library of Congress. It is a multi-faceted app that provides not only a virtual tour, but resources and mini podcasts focused on the various areas of the Library. 

Library of Congress--Virtual Tour provides not only photos of the Library's historic rooms, but historical background on them, paired with related links for further investigation and audio podcasts about items or features in each room.

I found it easy to navigate and the links open up within the app itself, which is great for moving seamlessly between the rooms.

Some applications I see for the classroom are in a Social Studies unit on anything from the early Americas to the history of our Nation. I also could see it being a fun competition between teams to find particular items or images or facts.  Students could also be charged with doing more in depth research on a particular item of their choice featured in the Library.

Have a great time in Alaska, Richard!

Posted by Mary Beth Hertz who blogs at Philly Teacher and can be found on Twitter as @mbteach.

Listening to Our Students

Thank you Richard for inviting me to guest post at Free Tech 4 Teachers. Thank you for all you do every single day to share with teachers all over the world.

I had a very insightful experience this past Friday that I'd like to share with you before we jump into some conversation starters. Some of my coworkers and I invited students to share with us what they liked (and more importantly what they didn't like) about taking one of our online courses. Mind you, this was on a district professional development day. Students did not have school. Which means they came voluntarily. I really wasn't sure heading in to this meeting what to expect. I wondered if they would really open up and talk to us about their experience with the online course(s) they took last semester.

We had about ten students come to this meeting which was great. We took a few minutes at the beginning to frame our time together and then we broke them up into a few smaller groups based on the course they took last semester. We had some guiding questions to get the conversation going and once that happened, I couldn't take notes fast enough. This was a good thing. A very good thing I quickly realized.

The students did such a great job of sharing what made the course(s) engaging and relevant for them. They were sincere, honest, and respectful with their criticisms (I didn't expect them to be disrespectful). Nothing was out of line with their requests and suggestions for how to make the courses better. Needless to say, they all had excellent points. These students were truly "getting it" about what e-learning should look like and understood its place in the rest of their educational lives. They understood where our program began, where it is now, and what we're planning the future of our online program to look like.

When this meeting was over I was blown away with these students. I was so proud of them and it was the first time I'd met them! They were so helpful. We immediately began a Google Doc for all of us to compile our thoughts from the furious note-taking we'd done.

Here's my question: Why are we not doing this more? Particularly for me I think about its potential to leverage educational technology additions and improvements. Are we spending enough time listening to students and in turn using their input to make education in general better? Kids have great things to say if we make the time to value them and listen.

I'd love to hear more ideas and examples from you in the comments section. I've already had some great discussions on Twitter around this topic so feel free to chat with me there too.

Thank you for reading.

Kyle Pace

My PD Resources Site - My Favorite Resources

It's 5:30am and I'm wide awake in Nebraska getting ready to give two presentations today for Nebraska ESU 13. While I was tweaking my PD resources site, the thought came to me that I've never shared the link to it on Free Technology for Teachers. The site is basically a collection of my favorite resources categorized according to the function they perform. You won't find resources categorized by content area. Rather you'll find it is categorized by topics like creating videos, creating blogs, creating websites, etc. I've been slowly updating it for the last eight months or so and will continue to tweak it as necessary. I hope you find it useful.

ISTE Newbie Project

My name is Beth Still and my blog is Nebraska Change Agent. I am passionate about helping teachers connect to one another and learn how to integrate the use of technology into their curriculum so that it is not an event. I have known Richard since I started following him on Twitter in 2008. He was kind enough to be the test subject of a crazy idea I came up with in March of 2009. This is that story.

My love affair with Twitter began on June 14, 2008. By the time September rolled around I was telling everyone who would listen that they needed to sign up for Twitter because it was an amazing resource. By the spring of 2009 I was really tired of people looking at me like I was some kind of freak each time I uttered the word “Twitter.” So I devised a plan that would show everyone who ever dared to question the power of Twitter that we could use it to do great things.

I decided to see if I could organize my personal learning network around a common goal. I asked them to donate funds to send one person to the National Educational Computing Conference (now called ISTE). This project came to be known as the ISTE Newbie Project and it was a huge success. Richard Byrne was the first “Newbie.” Within two weeks of launching the project we reached the goal of $1500. It never occurred to me to do the project more than once, but the response was so overwhelmingly positive I decided to do it again in 2010. Jason Schrage, a Social Studies teacher from New York, was the Newbie in 2010. For 2011, I decided to shake things up a bit by sending an administrator. George Couros, a principal from Canada, is the Newbie for 2011.

Selecting an administrator was a tough decision because I knew I would get some push back from my personal learning network. Most people have been supportive because they understand how critical it is for administrators to attend conferences so they can continue learning and also so they can network with other administrators. I realized many months ago that significant changes will not occur in schools until administrator are on board. Administrators are not our enemy. We need them and that is why I selected George.

The Newbie Project is about what we can do together as a network. It is meant to serve as an example of what one person can do when they are connected to so many people either directly or indirectly. I am a teacher in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. There aren’t many places in the United States that are more rural than where I live. This project illustrates the point that geographic location no longer matters.

For two years in a row my network has helped me accomplish a task that would have been next to impossible a few years ago. I need your help to make sure the third ISTE Newbie Project is a success as well. If everyone who reads about this project would make a $5 we could meet the goal for 2011 in no time. If you believe in the power of the network please consider making a donation. Together we can do great things!

A Fun Overview of the US Presidents

Many schools in the US are closed today for President's Day. For those who are in school today, here's a fun overview of the US Presidents courtesy of the Animaniacs. The video ends with Bill Clinton so have your students try to make up a rhyming addition to the song to include George W. Bush and Barack Obama.