Big Huge Labs Offers Education Accounts

Have you been to Big Huge Labs lately? Did you know that you can set up education accounts so your students can create products without having to have an email? Be sure to explore the myriad of quick products such as trading cards, museum photos, motivation posters – all customizable!

Here’s a photo of our dog, Lane. Museum quality, don’t you think? lane at the museum

Connecting elementary students – the power of the learning network

I learn so much from my PLN on Twitter – from interesting websites, to student work, to asking and answering questions. I have also seen over the past couple years numerous projects where teachers are using Twitter to make a call for participation, asking for input on projects, advice, etc.

Last week this particular tweet caught my eye:

Immediately I thought to myself, what a great way to inspire young learners to create content for a real audience. I happened to be headed to work with some teachers in New Jersey at that moment, therefore I replied:

I was very excited to see what the students might create. What form would it take?  I soon received my answer the next day:

I excitedly clicked the URL to see my video (which I am linking to directly here since the Tweet above goes to the blog main page).  I was thrilled to see my video “planned and acted by 1st graders”.

Of course, I thanked the students:

I see that elementary students in different classes, not just first graders, are creating and planning videos in order to “teach” Spanish to people around the world. For additional examples, visit @wpespanyol on Twitter to see the various requests and responses.

How are you connecting your students to the world? To what authentic audiences are your students presenting? If your students are too young to connect themselves, how are you facilitating that connection?

Kiva in the Classroom

So today a colleague asked me, “How could you use Kiva in the classroom?”kiva logo

I have been involved with Kiva for a couple years now, volunteering to translate budding entrepreneur loans from Spanish to English so multitudes of Kiva users can make loans. Over the last 12 months I have volunteered as a Team Leader, serving as a point of contact for a team of volunteer translators.  So in brainstorming how Kiva could be used in the classroom, the following ideas came to mind!

  • lending groups – students can form groups, fundraise locally, and support entrepreneurs abroad
  • volunteer translating – although the translating would be from the target language to English when you are a native English speaker, translating would be a way to connect to the global community, perform community service, and it is an interesting way to learn localized vocabulary while providing a service
  • use the pictures as writing prompts
  • use the pictures for cultural visuals
  • capture several loan photos and descriptions – mix and match pictures and narrative descriptions of loans
  • read the loan and hypothesize as to what the photo reflect or create a visual to accompany the description
  • view the photo and hypothesize what the lender is seeking funding for
  • compare loans for the same service/product across countries – compare cost, loan use, etc.Kiva girl
  • analyze the loans – discover the trends by country, gender, loan category, etc.
  • look at group loans vs individual loans – compare use, gender, group size, country, within and between group demographics
  • read the loan journals at – “follow-ups” are posted regarding some of the loans – so students could read the loan as well as the follow-up posting to track the loan
  • Kiva Fellows blog postings – – are interesting because they almost always deal with cultural issues that can lead to rich, comparative discussions
  • Kiva Fellows have a YouTube channel – – access authentic video rich in cultural content
  • use Google maps to geotag the loans
  • compare the loan percentage rates across sectors, countries, microlending organizations; calculate the total amount to be repaid
  • Kiva app gallery – – will also have tools to help do some of the above tasks
  • Kiva in the classroom – – is Kiva’s webpage to help educators think about integrating Kiva
  • KivaFriends – – is a community (not associated with Kiva) of avid Kiva fans who are also a rich resource of information

Kiva launched some advanced search options which make it easier to do some of the above ideas.

Kiva has much to offer – consider how you can use Kiva to help your students connect to the world!

iPads in Education: Bandwagon vs. Purposeful Integration

Photo credit: 138-Who's iPad is it? Holtsman,

So on a discussion list, a question was posed about whether or not it would be worth it to buy iPads for students. The discussion online was heavy on the hardware, light on the pedagogy, and hardly a mention of student learning. There were some who always buy what Apple releases, others on the PC bandwagon with netbooks. Interspersed were a couple comments about the disruptive nature of technology for teachers and the challenges it presented (disruptive in the sense of having to redo lesson plans, not disruptive in the sense of thinking or challenging pedagogical practice). There was little discussion about STUDENT learning. So I though I would throw my two cents into the conversation and try to ask some thoughtful questions with the learner in mind.

Choosing to use an iPad, or any other selected technology tools and platforms, comes down to the learning opportunity it provides for the student. Before buying any hardware or software, the bigger questions for me are:
What is/are the desired outcome(s)? What do we want students to know and be able to do? And how do we want the students to show what they know, understand, and can apply?

Any hardware or software will potentially impact a teacher’s professional practice, as well as students’ learning.

Any hardware or software can be used for purposeful, insightful learning experiences, or, conversely, for useless, superfluous activity. I’ve seen interactive whiteboards turned into amazing learning environments as well as simply used as an electronic blackboard, simply recording what the teacher writes. The power of any tool, high tech or low tech, is in the opportunities it affords.

So thinking about the iPad specifically, questions I would ask off the top of my head are:
1. What are the students going to be able to access and how will that help the students learn?
2. What are the students going to create and how will that help the students learn and let others know that they know it? (formative and summative assessment)?
3. What can students create vs. simply be passive consumers with this device?
4. How does this device empower students?
5. What kind of training will I provide for teachers, students, and parents around the technical and application aspects of the device?
6. What are the licensing ramifications?
7. What is the expected life expectancy of the device?
8. What rights and permissions are needed in order for the device to be truly useful to students? (And I lean more toward a positive critical tech literacy approach vs locking down networks and devices)
9. If working with younger students, what are my responsibilities toward those younger students with regard to the law and protecting them?
10. What kind of ongoing training and support will I have in place for this new initiative?
11. How will I share the trials, tribulations, and success?
12. Does the student save locally, on the network? Is the device the individual student’s device or part of a class set that stays with the class? Even this question has huge ramifications of access and ownership.

For me, at the moment, the iPad appears to be a device that allows the consuming of media and information, and does not necessarily facilitate the easy creation of products and content (a test would be how easy the device is to use in various Web 2.0 publishing environments where students can now create content, as well as putting some of the other standard apps to a user test). Flash and Java are still common in Web 2.0 authoring environments. I am sure as more apps are released the device will hold greater potential for K-12, but in its current state, I don’t think the return on investment will merit the purchase.

Yes, the iPad may change the way we consume media, data and information – it will become transformative when it can become equally as powerful in creating with media, data and information.

Other questions come to mind? Are you using iPads with students? What do you think?

Teachers selling lesson plans

The New York Times had an interesting article online, Selling Lessons Online Raises Cash and Questions, highlighting how educators are finding ways to sell their lesson plans online and using the cash for personal and professional purposes, such as classroom supplies and supplemental income.

Teachers Pay Teachers, one of the largest such sites, with more than 200,000 registered users, has recorded $600,000 in sales since it was started in 2006 — $450,000 of that in the past year, said its founder, Paul Edelman, a former New York City teacher. The top seller, a high school English teacher in California, has made $36,000 in sales.

Kelly Gionti, a teacher at the High School for Law, Advocacy and Community Justice in Manhattan, has sold $2,544 worth of unit plans for “The Catcher in the Rye” and “The Great Gatsby,” among others, helping finance trips to Rome and Ireland, as well as class supplies.

Margaret Whisnant, a retired teacher in North Carolina, earns an average of $750 a month from lessons based on her three decades of teaching middle school classics like “The Outsiders,” enough to pay for new kitchen counters and appliances.

“I have wanted to redo my kitchen for 20 years, and I just could not get the funds together,” she said. “Well, now I’m going to have to learn to cook.”

I think it is absolutely fantastic that teachers can sell what they have created, sharing successful materials with other educators. With the advent of services such as Teachers pay Teachers and self-publishing websites like LuLu, teachers are able to share and profit.

Some may criticize and say that teachers should share their work without renumeration -and many do out of the goodness of their hearts. On the other hand, it takes hours to create and refine high quality instructional materials, and I have no problem paying a few dollars for that expertise.

Moving from Edublogs to WordPress

Being tired of the storage limits and advertising push happening over at Edublogs, I decided to use my own BlueHost hosting and host my own blog on the WordPress platform. BlueHost has an automatic script to make installation of WordPress very easy, and then I located these terrific directions on moving a blog and all its posts from Edublogs to the WordPress platform (wherever that may be). So now I’m “home” and ready to customize this site even more!

Heading to New Jersey!

I’m headed to New Jersey the first week in November to work with world language educators in Lenape Regional High School District and Hillsborough Township Public Schools. The topic is integrating Web 2.0 applications – creating content in the world language classroom! Looking forward to it – practicing teachers always have so many new ideas when given the time and opportunity to explore and create!

Wolfram|Alpha launches

Yesterday I played with Wolfram|Alpha.  What is this, you ask? Think of it as a master computational engine – put in a problem and it solves it; put in a keyword and it give you data on the query subject.

Wolfram|Alpha’s long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything. Our goal is to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.

I entered “español” in the search box, not quite sure what it would return. Visually, somewhat interesting. I liked the “more” feature in each subsection and the ability to export the information in PDF format. “Lemonade” reveals interesting nutritional information averaged across multiple sources. “Dali” sadly doesn’t return any of his artwork, just a few dates.

I think if my teenage daughter would have had access to this site while she was taking Pre-Calculus, she would have died and gone to heaven.

Social networking for educators

I’m doing a two-part learning lunch series for my staff on social networking. Many of my staff are, shall we say, experienced educators, and have not experienced social networking or even be able to describe it.  So during the first part we are looking at what is social networking, and next week is how is social networking used in education. This will be interesting!  Learning Lunch Launch Sheet (PDF)